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Mexico imposes 50pc tariff on white corn imports amid trade dispute

MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico on Saturday began imposing a 50-per-cent tariff on white corn imports, a move the president said looks to boost national production and prevent imports of genetically modified (GM) corn.

The measure, published late on Friday in the Mexican government’s official gazette, will be in force until the end of the year and occurs amid a trade dispute between Mexico and its North American trade partners, Canada and the United States (US), over genetically modified corn.

Mexico imports some white corn – the kind used for human consumption – mainly from the US and South Africa.

But since the tariff goes against the US-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement, it could complicate the trade dispute that the country already has with the US and Canada over GM corn.

White corn was among the basic foods that were exempted from tariffs earlier this year in an attempt by the Mexican government to control inflation. But according to the decree, the decision “has not generated a significant impact on the decrease in prices in the national market, so it’s considered appropriate to eliminate it”.

At 5.84 per cent in May, the Mexican government considers inflation more or less under control.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. PHOTO: AP

Mexico wants to restrict GM white corn for human consumption and eventually also veto GM yellow corn for animal feed. The US and Canada say that would harm trade in the region.

Mexico has been importing GM feed corn from the US for years, buying about USD3 billion worth annually.

Both the US and Canada have said that Mexico’s fear of the dangers of GM corn is “not grounded in science”.

Earlier this month, Canada said it would join a trade dispute panel that the US requested over Mexico’s proposed limits on imports of genetically modified corn.

The US government asked that the dispute process be formally opened June 2, after talks with the Mexican government failed to yield results.

A panel of experts would have about six months to study the complaint and release its findings.

Trade sanctions could follow if Mexico was found to have violated the US-Mexico Canada free trade agreement.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he was not afraid of controversy and has insisted that only domestic white corn should be used for human consumption.