Argentine Lemons the Heart of Latest Ag Trade Squabble

January 23, 2017 11:38 AM

The U.S. put on hold a rule that allowed Argentine farmers to export lemons after 10 years of talks, putting into doubt President Mauricio Macri’s attempt to revive trade between the two countries.

On the day that President Donald Trump took office, the White House ordered a stay of 60 days “on its final rule to allow the importation of fresh lemon fruit from northwest Argentina,” the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said on its website.

Argentina is currently in talks to regain preferential tariff status with the U.S., as well as resume beef exports and extend the U.S. visa waiver system to Argentine tourists. Yet, Trump vowed in his inaugural speech that his two rules are hire American and buy American, raising concern Macri won’t be able to leverage his personal relationship with the new president to improve trade ties.

Shares of Tucuman-based lemon exporter SA San Miguel AGICI fell 7.9 percent at 12:03 pm in Buenos Aires, the most since Nov. 11.

The U.S. has fallen to Argentina’s third-largest trade partner after decades of being No. 2 as relations between the two countries chilled following the 2001 default. Lemon producers from California had pushed to block the resumption of imports from Argentina.

“If President Trump and his collaborators confirm what they’ve been saying these last few days, it’s most probable that we’ll have a very closed-off U.S.,” Marcelo Elizondo, director of international trade consultancy Desarrollo de Negocios Internacionales. “We shouldn’t expect big advances in the bilateral relationship.”

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