Senators press Trump administration on India pecan tariff

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's U.S. senators want the Trump administration to defend the state's pecan growers from tariffs during ongoing trade negotiations with India.

U.S. Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, recently signed on to a bipartisan letter from 12 senators urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to negotiate the lifting of a trade barrier, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reports .

The senators argued that rising imports from Mexico, Chinese tariffs and tree loss after Hurricane Michael strained U.S. pecan prices, and India's growing middle class represented a market that could help minimize the economic damage.

"Gaining access to new markets for pecans will help stabilize the pecan markets while orchards are replanted, and a trade deal is negotiated with China," read the letter.

Records show India charges a 36 percent tariff on pecan imports, while other tree nuts such as pistachios and almonds are charged tariff rates of 10 percent or less.

New Mexico became the largest pecan-producing state last year, after Hurricane Michael ravaged Georgia's crop.

New Mexico was estimated to have produced about 90 million pounds of pecans in 2018, down about 2 million from 2017.

The pecan industry contributes more than $3.57 billion to the economies of the U.S.' 15 pecan-producing states, with exports contributing about $1.25 billion in additional economic activity in rural America over the past decade, the senators' letter said.

Trump did signal a purported allegiance with India during a rally on Sunday in Houston, where he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed a desire to work with the country on trade.

"We are working to expand American exports to India — one of the world's fastest-growing markets." Trump said.

Modi said he looked forward to negotiations with the U.S. in the coming years.


Information from: Carlsbad Current-Argus,