(Oct. 3) Fulfilling a goal to have a physical presence in all North American countries, the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp. has opened an office in Mexico City, said DRC president and chief executive officer Stephen Whitney.

“We had key support from Mexico’s secretary of agriculture, Javier Usabiaga Arroyo, who has experience growing and marketing vegetables,” Whitney said. Another supporter of the DRC in Mexico was Gerardo Lopez Noriega, ASERCA’s general coordinator of trade promotion and the Mexican government’s liaison officer to the DRC board. ASERCA is a trade-focused branch of the Mexico’s Department of Agriculture.

Whitney said the commitment of the Mexican government and agriculture officials helped cement the decision to open an office. The DRC, which has headquarters in Ottawa, also has a trading assistance office in Chicago.

The Mexican authorities helped offset some of the cost of the office and have signed a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to train and develop a destination inspection service, Whitney said. The service is expected to operate in Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey, he said.

When Mexico introduces the inspection service — anticipated in early 2003 — Whitney said the DRC will use the service to help Mexican companies resolve disputes with trading partners in Mexico, the U.S. and Canada.

The DRC helps mediate about 100 trade dispute cases a year, Whitney said.

When it was launched in 2000, the DRC had a goal of 1,500 members to create a sustainable system for dispute resolution services throughout North America. Whitney said DRC is about two-thirds of the way there. Canada has about 800 members and the U.S. 250 members, he said. However, the DRC has only eight members in Mexico. The membership goal for Mexico is 200.

Annual membership fees for traders in all countries are $535 a year, he said.

The Mexico office is at the World Trade Center in Mexico City and will be directed by Ernesto Maldonado. Before joining the DRC, Maldonado worked for the Mexican Department of Agriculture.

“We need a strong membership base in Mexico to operate effectively and we will be launching a major promotion program to educate our industry and sign people up,” he said in a news release from the DRC.

Whitney said a formal announcement and further details about the Mexico City office will be announced at the Produce Marketing Association’s convention in New Orleans. A media event is planned Oct. 14 and information may be obtained by visiting DRC booth 2824.

The DRC, a private, nonprofit organization of produce companies trading in the North American marketplace, has a mission to provide North American produce industry with policies, standards and services necessary for resolving dispute.

Under the system, produce firms that join the DRC adhere to a common set of trading practices and mediation and arbitration procedures. Decisions of the DRC are enforceable in the courts of the three countries.