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LatAm in Focus: Could a Clash over Corn Upend U.S.-Mexico Trade Ties?

By Carin Zissis

When it comes to challenges for U.S.-Mexico bilateral ties, the first tensions that spring to mind might be issues like fentanyl or immigration.

But what about corn? The North American staple crop has eclipsed seemingly more serious issues to become a recent stumbling block between these two countries.

The problem started in 2020, when the government of Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, said it would phase out imports of genetically modified corn and the herbicide glyphosate. That was no small matter for the United States—the world’s biggest corn producer and exporter—given that 90 percent of the corn it grows is GMO and Mexico is its second-biggest export market.

The United States has said that’s not good enough, as the new decree still leaves the door open to a ban down the road. On March 6, it requested formal trade consultations and, if no resolution is reached within 30 days, the two countries will get closer to a formal dispute. Potentially, Mexico could face U.S. tariffs.

“The real issue here is about regulatory predictability,” says Marroquín. “If Mexico is not clear in its commitment to a science-based, rules-based trade system—which is basically USMCA—there’s going to be plenty of uncertainty.”


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