The United States and Mexico signed an agreement Monday to end a 16-year trade dispute, boosting shipments of Mexican cement into the United States.
"This agreement will provide a needed increase in the supply of cement in the United States at a time of strong demand, as our Gulf Coast is accelerating its rebuilding following the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita," U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman said in a statement.
Under the agreement, which will take effect on April 3, U.S. imports of Mexican cement will rise to three million tons annually, up from the current level of about two million tons.
In addition, penalty tariffs on Mexican cement imposed by the United States will drop from 26 dollars per ton to three dollars per ton and are scheduled to end completely in April 2009.
Also in April 2009, the annual quota of three million tons will disappear and Mexico will be allowed unlimited shipments of cement into the United States.
In return, Mexico will open its domestic market for cement to producers in the United States and other countries.
In the late 1980s, Mexico was exporting almost five million metric tons of cement a year to the United States. But exports fell after the U.S. Commerce Department in 1990 imposed the antidumping duties at the request of a group of U.S. cement makers.
U.S. cement makers complained their plants in the southern U.S. were being hurt by Mexican cement being sold far below its fair- market value.