Cross-border commerce is vital to Arizona’s economy and families. Between 2015 and 2017, Arizona exported on average, $10.5 billion annually in goods to our neighbors to the north and south. More than 228,000 Arizona jobs exist today because of trade with Mexico and Canada, and there is significant potential for our economy and jobs to grow even more.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) desperately needed to be modernized and strengthened to put American workers first. The Trump Administration worked hard to negotiate and reach a deal that brought our trade policies into the 21st Century. Under this new proposal, called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Arizona has the opportunity to improve and increase its strong economic relationships with our neighbors and create more jobs for Arizonans. Congress needs to ratify this agreement and should do so rapidly in with bipartisan support.
One area of cross-border trade that benefits Arizona workers and families is the importation of fresh fruits and vegetables. Much of this fresh produce is distributed throughout the U.S. by logistical companies based in Nogales that employ about one-quarter of wage-earners in Santa Cruz County. This type of commerce allows families to enjoy affordable fresh fruits and vegetables year-round with fair rules designed not to hurt farmers in the U.S.
Back in 1990s, Mexico was “dumping” tomatoes into the U.S. market at unfairly low prices, so the Clinton administration negotiated something called the “Tomato Suspension Agreement” to prohibit that practice and protect U.S. farmers. For the last 23 years, this agreement has been working and was good for Arizona, supporting logistical jobs here while keeping tomatoes affordable year-round.
Unfortunately, the Department of Commerce recently announced a decision to terminate the Tomato Suspension Agreement and it is set to expire on May 7th. At that point, they intend to apply steep tariffs on all Mexican tomatoes that end up in our grocery stores and on our dinner tables.
Without this Tomato Suspension Agreement, Arizona’s economy, jobs, and tomato prices are at risk. Once the tariffs kick in, the cost of tomatoes for consumers could be raised 40 to 85 percent or more, according to a recent Arizona State University study.
I strongly oppose the Administration’s move to end the Tomato Suspension Agreement and have clearly expressed my opposition to the Secretary of Commerce. The price of tomatoes for families at the grocery store will increase—perhaps as much as $4.50 a pound for tomatoes on the vine, according to the ASU analysis.
I am pressing the Department of Commerce for a new tomato agreement that protects Arizona jobs and hardworking families. And I call on both parties to join together to urgently pass USMCA so we can modernize NAFTA and benefit Americans. Arizona’s economy, workers, and families are depending on it.
Sen. Martha McSally is a U.S. Senator of Arizona.