Mexico-U.S. Sugar Face-to-Face Talks Will Start Next Week

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By Emily Pickrell

U.S. and Mexican trade representatives will meet face-to-face next week to discuss the future of sugar trade between the two countries, the head of the Mexican sugar trade group said.

A Commerce Department official said the process has started and that face-to-face meetings will take place the week of March 27.

The trade representatives will meet in Washington to discuss a forthcoming U.S. proposal, scheduled to be delivered to Mexican negotiators, and which would replace an existing 2014 sugar suspension agreement due to expire in May, according to Juan Cortina, the president of the Mexican Sugar Chamber.

“Mexico is willing to sit down and discuss and come up with a solution to all of this that makes sense,” Cortina said in an interview with Bloomberg BNA. “We would love to have the same suspension agreement, but we are willing to find the solution to the whole thing that is a win-win for both sides. I think that is very doable.”

Commerce has also confirmed that the sugar negotiations are in progress.

The current suspension agreement on antidumping duties and subsidies was agreed to on Dec. 19, 2014, after complaints by the U.S. sugar industry that Mexico was unfairly dumping refining sugar into the U.S. market. The resulting agreement sets minimum prices and certain restrictions for Mexican sugar, but has still been criticized by U.S. sugar producers as permitting too much refined product into the market. Mexico currently is the top U.S. sugar supplier, making up about one-third of its 11 million- ton sugar market.

Mexico halted shipments in mid-March after reaching the ceiling as stipulated in the suspension agreement between the two countries.

Binding Deal Sought

A key negotiation goal for Mexico will be coming to an agreement that will be binding for the foreseeable future, Cortina said.

“If we come to an agreement, this new suspension agreement needs to be understood as the definitive one,” Cortina said. “What is important for the Mexican industry is that we need clear rules so that everyone can plan.”

The agreement would not necessarily be impacted by a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which does not place any restrictions on sugar and trade and which U.S. and Mexican trade officials have indicated may take place this summer.

The timeline for the sugar negotiations is also up in the air. Much will depend on the specific demands made in the U.S. proposal, which is still in development.

“If there is a willingness on both sides to negotiate, we can reach an agreement fast,” Cortina said, noting that U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur “Ross has given instructions to do it fast. I just hope it is not the same proposal we have been getting for the last twelve months.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Pickrell in Mexico City at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

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