(July 22) The U.S. Commerce Department could be going back in time to conduct its dumping investigation on Mexican tomatoes.

The Commerce Department is reviewing comments from U.S. and Mexican interested parties submitted in regard to the resumption of the antidumping investigation on Mexican tomatoes July 31.

Lee Frankel, president of the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, said virtually all parties suggested to the Commerce Department that the agency use existing data collected in 1996.

The Confederation of Agricultural Associations of the State of Sinaloa, or CAADES, a Mexican grower group, submitted the request to replace firms no longer in business or exporting tomatoes with the voluntary respondents that submitted complete questionnaires in 1996, Frankel said.

ONE COMPLICATION

Tony DiMare, an officer with Homestead, Fla.-based DiMare Homestead Inc., said the Florida tomato industry also believes the Commerce Department should use the initial information rather than start a new investigation. One complication of that desire is determining which Mexican growers in business when the dumping investigation began in 1996 are still in business.

As the Commerce Department decided what data must be collected for resumption of the dumping investigation, 17.5% dumping margin duties on Mexican tomatoes were set to begin at the end of July.

Frankel said there appeared to be no movement on a new price suspension agreement.

“My understanding is that U.S. Commerce and U.S. Customs have still not met to discuss enforcement tools that Customs has or would be willing to offer,” he said. At the same time, the Mexican government’s commerce department equivalent has not come up with a plan that would obligate virtually all Mexican tomato growers to be included in a price suspension agreement.

TYING FLOOR PRICES TO U.S. PRICE

Frankel said any new agreement also should have a mechanism to tie the floor price to the U.S. price to prevent undercutting by all parties.

“We are no closer to an agreement than when the Mexican producers left the last suspension agreement,” he said.

CAADES notified the U.S. May 31 that it was pulling out of the agreement, which has been in place since October 1996. The agreement suspended a dumping investigation of Mexican tomatoes and established a minimum price between 17.2 and 21.08 cents per pound for Mexican tomatoes shipped to the U.S.

The agreement had been under a mandatory five-year review, as prescribed under terms of the Uruguay Round Agreement of the World Trade Organization.