How U.S. Settles Sugar Dispute With Mexico Could Signal Nafta Intent – By Anthony Harrup in Mexico City and Julie Wernau in New York May 19, 2017 5:30 a.m. ET


U.S. is looking to reinstate anti-dumping and antisubsidy duties on imports of Mexican sugar

The U.S. and Mexico have to reach an agreement by June 5 on a longstanding dispute over sugar.

The U.S. and Mexico have to reach an agreement by June 5 on a longstanding dispute over sugar. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Image

As the Trump administration sets the clock running for a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a deadline is fast approaching in a longstanding dispute with Mexico over sugar that some see as a harbinger of how those broader talks could play out.

Unless the two sides reach agreement by June 5, the U.S. Department of Commerce will reinstate anti-dumping and antisubsidy duties on imports of Mexican sugar, risking a backlash from Mexico which denies that it subsidizes or dumps sugar in the U.S.

The duties were suspended in 2014 under agreements that limited imports and set minimum prices, but U.S. sugar producers say Mexican sugar is continuing to hurt their industry.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo discussed the matter this week with U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, but declined to give details of the talks. “We’re advancing in that process and we think if we continue like that we’ll be able, before two weeks are up, to narrow our differences,” he told reporters.

Freight trucks from Mexico go through customs at Otay Mesa port of entry, in San Diego.

Freight trucks from Mexico go through customs at Otay Mesa port of entry, in San Diego. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration on Thursday notified Congress that it intends to renegotiate Nafta with Mexico and Canada, setting in motion a 90-day consultation period for the negotiations to begin. Some see the handling of the sugar dispute as a dress rehearsal.

“I think the sugar situation is like a preamble, a starting point for entering the Nafta negotiations,” said Carlos Blackaller, head of Mexico’s sugar cane growers’ union which represents some 180,000 cane producers in 15 Mexican states. “If our government accepts conditions, it would lose ability in those negotiations.”

Mexican producers say that if they are locked out of the U.S. market, they will seek actions against imports of U.S. high fructose corn syrup. U.S. corn refiners, who battled for years in the late 1990s and early 2000s over access to the Mexican market for HFCS, are concerned about fallout from a renewed trade spat in sweeteners.

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