(June 25) OTTAWA — Having averted a hearing in front of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, the U.S. and Canadian tomato industries are awaiting a final ruling on the Canadian Tomato Trade Alliance’s application to drop its anti-dumping suit against U.S. producers.

Although the CITT is not officially due to issue its final ruling in the matter until July 23, industry leaders on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border say they anticipate the case to go away in short order.

The case was to have been heard June 24 in Ottawa, but the Canadian Tomato Trade Alliance had instructed its attorneys June 19 to file papers that would terminate the case.

“I expect CITT to make a ruling quickly, since there wasn’t a hearing,” said Denton Hoffman, chairman of the alliance and general manager of the Leamington-based Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Producers Marketing Board. “I expect the case is gone. Since there was no hearing and we opted out, to terminate it, I think the conclusion has to come fast and furious.”

Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Orlando-based Florida Tomato Committee, voiced hope that the case finally would disappear.

“Hopefully, they’ll make a quick decision, but they have until July 23,” Brown said.

In the meantime, both sides are hoping to get together to resolve any remaining issues through the North American Tomato Trade Working Group.

“We’re informally having some conversations, trying to get the work group together to start dealing with some of these issues that were in preliminary stages and see if we can’t make some progress instead of war,” Brown said.

Ed Beckman, president of the Fresno-based California Tomato Committee, said he agreed that dropping the suit was only a first important step to settlement of the case.

“While the (cancellation of the hearing) effectively concludes the investigation, until the tribunal issues a written decision, duties will continue on shipments to Canada,” Beckman said.

Canada’s producers made an important concession in agreeing to drop the suit, Beckman said.

“The CITT in making the cancellation, noted the withdrawal of the Canadian industry from the proceedings, and that a ruling under section 43 of SIMA (Canada’s Special Import Measures Act) will ‘draw appropriate inferences’ in that connection,” Beckman said in a prepared statement. “This would suggest that ITT will issue a ‘no injury’ determination in the case.”

The “no-injury” stipulation had been an obstacle to settlement, Hoffman said earlier.

A quick disposition of the case is not necessarily a given, Beckman said in a subsequent telephone interview.

“As we speak, the tribunal is reviewing the evidence and will be making a ruling, but you have to understand that (CITT) is over their head right now in antidumping actions,” he said, citing several other cases not related to produce. “This is a rather minor antidumping action from the Canadian perspective. You have staff stretched fairly thin. We do know, however, that those paying the duties, our customers in Canada, have been working the phones pretty heavily asking for a fairly quick resolution.”

Beckman said resolution of the case is just a first step in the road back to business as usual, however.

“It’s not simply a matter of duties coming off; it’s how quickly existing duties are being refunded,” he said. “We can’t predict any of this until we get e ruling of the tribunal.”

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 a generic rate of 22%.

Beckman said that once CITT issues its ruling, the case goes back to the CCRA, which will develop a timeline for the refund of all duties that have been paid.

“So now, we’re giving the tribunal a little room to work, but if something doesn’t happen fairly quick, we’ll have to ask some questions,” Beckman said.

Canada’s industry filed its original complaint against U.S. fresh tomato imports June 28, 2001, claiming the U.S. had been dumping its product into Canada below market prices. The Canadian Tomato Trade Alliance blamed shipments from Florida and California.