(June 13)WASHINGTON, D.C. — With Canadian International Trade Tribunal hearings on Canada’s anti-dumping case against the U.S. tomato industry rapidly approaching, negotiators on both sides were making a final stab at an out-of-court settlement.

The effort follows an offer from Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based law firm representing the Canadian Tomato Trade Alliance, that offered undisclosed conditions for terminating the case.

Neither Ed Beckman, president of the Fresno-based California Tomato Commission, nor Denton Hoffman, general manager of the Leamington-based Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Producers Marketing Board, would comment on the prospects for an out-of-court settlement.

Telephone calls to Murray Driediger, general manager of the British Columbia Vegetable Marketing Commission, based in Delta, were not returned.

A letter dated May 16, from Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy to Darrell H. Pearson of the Toronto firm Gottlieb & Pearson, which represents the U.S. industry, outlined terms that, if met, would lead to an “application to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal for an Order that the current proceedings be terminated.”

Among the terms were requirements that the U.S. industry members “confirm their ongoing commitment and participation in the North American Tomato Trade Working Group and confirm that in their participation in the working group, they will make reasonable efforts to work to avoid trade disputes and seek early resolution of trade disputes as they may arise.”

No other proposed terms were available.

Canada is scheduled to issue its final determination of duty rates by June 24, and the final injury determination by July 23.

The Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency has assigned preliminary duties ranging from zero to 71%, with most of the latter applying to companies that the agency said did not fully cooperate in the agency's preliminary investigation stemming from the suit.

Exporters who cooperated in the agency's review — or whose information was accepted as complete — were assessed individually. Exporters not contacted by the Canadian government to participate in the review were assessed the generic rate of 22%.

Canada’s industry filed its original complaint against U.S. fresh tomato imports June 28, 2000, claiming the U.S. had been dumping its product into Canada below market prices. The Canadian Tomato Trade Alliance specifically blamed shipments from Florida and California.