Mexico to impose trade sanctions against US in tuna fish dispute

Mexico to impose trade sanctions against US in tuna fish dispute

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The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled today (PDF) Mexico is allowed to impose trade sanctions worth of US$ 163.23 million against the United States as result of disputes over trade in tuna fish.

Shortly after the ruling was announced, Mexicans authorities said will immediately begin the proper procedures to enforce said sanctions.

WTO determined Mexico was still being unfairly after the U.S. changed its rules on "dolphin friendly" labeling, a measure its southern neighbor has been fighting for over 20 years.

In January, Mexico and the U.S. had both entered appeals of a WTO panel ruling that said U.S. dolphin-safe tuna labeling unnecessarily hinders trade but that stopped short of finding the rules discriminates against Mexican products.

The U.S. is seeking to overturn the argument that the labeling law is overly restrictive.

Mexico, on the other hand, argues that the panel erred in its finding that Mexico’s tuna industry does not receive any treatment under the labeling rules that is worse than what tuna products from the U.S. or other countries receive, arguing the labeling law impacts Mexico more than any other exporter.

According to Mexican authorities, the country’s fishing industry had cut dolphin deaths to minimal levels, yet it faces discrimination by U.S. demands for paperwork and from government observers. Tuna from other regions don’t face the same hurdles, they said.

U.S. largest suppliers of canned tuna imports in 2015 were Thailand, Vietnam, Mauritius, Canada, Ecuador, Fiji, China and Indonesia, according to NOAA's National Marine Fisheries data. Mexico has about a 3.5% share in an estimated market of US$ 700 million a year.

However, the ruling could be overturned later this year if a subsequent WTO decision finds its southern neighbor.

The sanctions award, which is only a third of the US$ 472.3 million Mexico asked for, can still be reversed in July, when the WTO will decide if the U.S. has stopped discriminating against tuna caught by Mexican ships.


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