Washington — U.S. sugar policy is hampering potential positive economic impacts of free trade agreements (FTAs), according to testimony given by Agralytica Inc. Executive Vice-President Tom Earley to the International Trade Commission.
“The sugar industry has consistently urged the administration and U.S. trade negotiators to hold fast against any significant concessions on foreign access to the domestic sugar market,” Earley said. “Unfortunately, once the United States tells other countries in trade negotiation that the sugar program is sacrosanct, those counties are then free to hold out against market access concession on their own sensitive agricultural sectors.”
He explained the policy leaves the other 98 percent of U.S. agriculture with less access to foreign markets and the effect also hurts services and manufacturing sectors. In addition, the inability for recent FTAs to increase U.S. access to foreign sugar in the face of rising consumption is compounding problems for cane refiners.
“The sugar program has always worked by limiting U.S. cane sugar refiners’ imports of raw sugar, putting refiners at a competitive disadvantage relative to producers of beet sugar,” he said. “Now the terms of the U.S.-Mexico suspension agreement may inadvertently complicate the ability of U.S. cane refiners to supply sufficient amounts of refined cane sugar already this year. This could result in the closure of one or more refineries.”