WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Commerce said it terminated on Dec. 7 the 2017 amendments to the Agreements Suspending the Antidumping Duty and Countervailing Duty Investigations on Sugar from Mexico in compliance with the U.S. Court of International Trade’s final judgment to vacate the amendments issued Oct. 18.
As a result, current sugar trade between the United States and Mexico again will be regulated by the Dec. 19, 2014, suspension agreements. Those agreements, in part, set reference prices for refined sugar from Mexico at 26c per lb and for raw sugar at 22.25c per lb, compared with the 2017 amendments that set the reference prices at 28c per lb for refined and at 23c per lb for “other” or raw sugar. The original suspension agreements also defined refined sugar as having polarity of 99.5 or above while the 2017 amendments set the minimum polarity at 99.2, which in effect limited the amount of sugar that went to U.S. “melters” who shipped directly to food manufacturers and increased the amount of raw sugar imports that went to U.S. cane refiners. The 2017 amendments also adjusted the refined/raw mix of sugar imports from Mexico to 30%/70% compared with 57%/47% in the original suspension agreements.
The D.O.C. on Nov. 6 issued draft amendments to the suspension agreements that would replace those vacated by the court and is accepting comments on the drafts until Dec. 16, after which the new amendments are expected to be implemented shortly.
The basis for the Court of International Trade’s action stems from a suit filed by CSC Sugar L.L.C. alleging that, in part, the D.O.C. failed to meet its obligation to file a complete administrative record that included ex parte communications between Commerce and interested parties. Commerce subsequently provided additional but not complete information on the meetings and communications in question, but the court ruled the additional material was not sufficient to prove that the omissions were harmless.
Assuming the draft amendments are formalized shortly after the Dec. 16 comment period ends, there should be minimal impact on U.S. imports of sugar from Mexico. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Nov. 25 that the D.O.C. had approved an additional 100,000 short tons, raw value, of refined sugar imports from Mexico to help ease the tight supply situation in the United States due mainly to lower-than-expected U.S. beet sugar production, shipments have been slow so far since Mexico’s cane harvest is off to a slower-than-normal start.