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USTR Initiates Global Safeguard Investigation into Blueberry Imports

Posted October 06, 2020

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative last week called on the U.S. International Trade Commission to initiate a Section 201 global safeguard investigation into “the extent to which increased imports of blueberries have caused serious injury or threat thereof to domestic blueberry growers.”
Close-up of Blueberries

The trade action, same as that employed by the Trump administration to increase tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels, is one of many announced in the “Report on Seasonal and Perishable Products in U.S. Commerce” that was jointly released by USTR, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce in early September.

Goods Covered

USTR’s request includes all imports with these product descriptions under the following statistical reporting categories in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS):

  • 0810400029 - Cultivated Blueberries, Including Highbush, Fresh or Chilled;
  • 0810400026 - Certified Organic Blueberries, Fresh or Chilled;
  • 0810400024 - Wild Blueberries, Fresh or Chilled;
  • 0811902024 - Wild Blueberry, Uncooked or Cooked by Steaming or Boiling in Water, Frozen;
  • 0811902030 - Blueberries, Certified Organic, Cultivated (Including Highbush, Uncooked or Cooked by Steaming or Boiling in Water, Frozen); and
  • 0811902040 - Blueberries, Cultivated (Including Highbush), Uncooked or Cooked by Steaming or Boiling in Water, NESOI, Frozen).

Scope of Investigation

While many of the anecdotal complaints from U.S. producers cited in the administration’s report concern the harmful effects of low-priced exports from Mexico, the “global safeguard” remedy being sought by the administration under provisions of Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 would account for imports from all countries. The USTR says this “comprehensive” approach is necessary owing to the fact that multiple countries export blueberries to the U.S. in significant quantities.

Government data shows that the value of blueberry imports into the U.S. has more than doubled since 2014, with five countries accounting for more than 98% of total imports over that time period: Peru, Chile, Mexico, Canada, and Argentina. In 2019, imports from Canada accounted for $116 million out of a worldwide total of $1.24 billion.

Why It Matters

According to Statistics Canada, blueberries are Canada’s top fruit export by volume and by value, accounting for 65.5% of export dollars and 53.4% of export tonnage with the U.S. being the top export destination, accounting for 64.8% of all fruit exports by value and 65.7% by tonnage in 2019.

Next Steps

The ITC should soon be publishing a notice in the Federal Register when the investigation commences and will subsequently hold public hearings to allow interested parties and consumers an opportunity to present evidence or otherwise be heard. 

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