The United States and Mexico recently held the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Consultative Committee on Agriculture (CCA), following renewal of the bilateral forum by the two governments in March 2007.

Mark E. Keenum, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Ambassador Richard T. Crowder, Chief Agricultural Trade Negotiator of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, led the U.S. delegation. Under Secretary Beatriz Leycegui of the Ministry of the Economy (Economia) and Under Secretary Francisco Lopez Tostado of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries, and Food Supply (SAGARPA) led the delegation from Mexico.

"The United States and Mexico held constructive, wide-ranging discussions on a host of critical issues facing our agricultural sectors. Key among them is full implementation of the remaining provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 2008," said Keenum.

"The agricultural trade teams of both countries will remain in close contact over the coming months to maintain momentum on outstanding issues," said Crowder. "We remain confident that through continued cooperation and dialogue, we can successfully reach full implementation of NAFTA on Jan. 1, 2008, to the benefit of both our agricultural sectors."

Among other outcomes, the parties agreed to conduct several technical assistance projects in Mexico in the corn and dry bean areas to help prepare Mexican producers for NAFTA implementation.

"These new undertakings, together with the broad range of U.S. technical assistance to Mexico's agricultural producers and processors, demonstrate U.S. commitment to assuring a smooth transition to full NAFTA implementation," said Keenum. "Moreover, the United States will continue to work with Mexico to build technical capacity in areas of mutual concern."

Officials also discussed pending U.S. and Mexican farm legislation, biotechnology, and a number of sanitary and phytosanitary issues. The next U.S. Mexico CCA meeting, to be hosted by Mexico, is tentatively scheduled for November 2007.

The U.S.-Mexico CCA discussions followed a meeting of the U.S.-Mexico Sweeteners Task Force on May 7. The task force was created by a July 2006 Agreement on Sweeteners Trade and includes both government and private-sector members from each country. The task force meeting allowed private-sector members of the sweeteners industry, including sugar and high-fructose corn syrup producers as well as sweeteners users, to provide advice to government officials about the operation of the July Agreement and the transition to full duty-free trade in sweeteners on Jan. 1, 2008.

The relationship between the United States and Mexico in agriculture is increasingly vital for both countries, with two-way trade in agricultural goods topping $20 billion in 2006.