Well, it was fun while it lasted.
Before Trump’s inauguration as US president last week, Argentina’s Treasury Minister, Nicolas Dujovne, seemed confident and insisted that the growing wave of protectionism in the United States would only have a ‘marginal’ impact on Argentina.
Just yesterday, Agroindustry Minister Ricardo Buryaile dismissed the possibility that Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House could stop the import of Argentine lemons to the United States.
It seems both men will be eating their words today as the US Department of Agriculture has released a statement informing that the rule permitting the importation of fresh lemons from northwestern Argentina to the continental United States will be suspended for 60 days. What’s next – wine?
The statement, issued by the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS/USDA), comes just three days after Trump’s inauguration speech in which he insisted: “We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American.”
He clearly wasn’t joking. In fact, according to the official announcement, the stay is being sent to the Federal Register today as a result of guidance issued by the White House on 20th January, the very first day of Trump’s presidency.
In his speech, the new president of the USA vowed: “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries, making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs.”
This measure represents a major setback for the Argentine citrus fruit industry, which has only just overcome obstacles to start exporting to the US again. In 2001, a lobby of Californian producers obtained a court ruling that questioned the safety of Argentine citrus fruits and banned their entry.
After years of negotiations, in December 2016, the US APHIS finally approved a ruling that allowed local trade to the US to resume, and producers and the Government alike had high expectations. In accordance with sector estimates, it was projected that Argentina would be able to export more than 20,000 tons of lemons, with a total value of US$ 50 million, at least.
Last month, President Mauricio Macri said that the US Government’s decision to authorize the importation of lemons from Argentina was a demonstration of “the seriousness and confidence that we can generate” as a country. Awkward.
Currently, Argentina is the world’s largest producer of fresh lemons with a total of over 1.5 million tonnes per year. 80% of this volume comes from the northwest province of Tucumán and the industry directly employs more than 50,000 people. This latest decision is sure to leave a fair few tucumanos with a bitter taste in their mouth.