Canada considering whether to join U.S. in trade dispute over Mexico's agricultural biotech policies

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The Canadian government has not yet decided whether it will join the U.S. in its trade dispute over Mexico’s restrictions on agricultural biotechnology.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai formally requested dispute settlement consultations with Mexico under the Canada-U.S.-Mexico (CUSMA or USMCA) trade agreement on Friday.

The dispute revolves around Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s February decree banning the use of genetically-modified corn in tortillas and dough, with plans to phase out the use of biotech corn in all products for human consumption and animal feed. The decree also included an updated timeline for banning the use of glyphosate herbicide in Mexico.

“The United States has repeatedly conveyed its concerns that Mexico’s biotechnology policies are not based on science and threaten to disrupt U.S. exports to Mexico to the detriment of agricultural producers, which in turn can exacerbate food security challenges,” noted Tai.

Under the dispute settlement rules in the North American trade deal, Canada could join the U.S. as a third party complainant for the consultations and if a dispute settlement panel is eventually established. The Canadian government has seven days following the USTR’s request to let the U.S. and Mexico know it wants to join as a third party.

“Canada is currently considering its next steps. Minister Ng has consistently been clear about the importance of maintaining science-based approaches to biotechnology approvals with [Mexico’s Secretary of Economy] Secretary Buenrostro,” says Shanti Cosentino, press secretary for Mary Ng, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development.

“Our decision will be guided by what is in the best interest of our farmers and the Canadian agriculture sector,” she says.

Canada joined the U.S. in requesting technical consultations with Mexico in March. Technical consultations are seen as the initial step in the process of resolving trade concerns between the members of the North American trade agreement.

Unlike the U.S., Canada does not export much corn to Mexico, but Mexico is a major market for Canadian canola, most of which is also genetically-engineered.

Related: Canada seeking consultations with Mexico over GE crop import policy

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