Sens. George Mitchell and William Cohen of Maine announced progress last week in a trade dispute that prevents growers from Maine and elsewhere from exporting potatoes to Mexico.
Mexico, which banned the potatoes for health reasons, has invited the United States and Canada to participate in a survey of potato diseases and pests under Nafta rules, the senators said."This is a significant step forward and will help determine whether Mexico's ban on imported potatoes is warranted," the senators said in a statement Friday. Maine's congressional delegation has criticized the Mexican ban as a barrier to free trade and a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mexico established its ban on potato imports in 1991 after previously allowing potatoes to enter the country for nearly 40 years.
Under Nafta provisions, Mexico could continue its ban if there is scientific evidence that U.S. or Canadian potatoes pose health or environmental dangers to people or plants.
Mexico's decision to proceed with a survey of its potato fields was reached at a recent meeting of the North American Plant Protection Organization.
The move followed a letter from 12 senators to U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor urging the Clinton administration to press the Mexican government on the issue.
Maine's potato growers want to export seed potatoes to Mexico.