WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Commerce on May 29 said it would delay from June 23 to Aug. 25 a preliminary determination in its countervailing duty investigation of U.S. sugar imports from Mexico.

The U.S. International Trade Commission on May 9 made a preliminary determination of injury in the case following a D.O.C. decision on April 17 to initiate an investigation of countervailing duties on U.S. sugar imports from Mexico. U.S. sugar producers petitioned the I.T.C. and the D.O.C. on March 28 claiming subsidized Mexican sugar was being dumped in the U.S. market at a cost of about $1 billion to U.S. sugar producers in the current marketing year.

“The department (D.O.C.) determines that the parties involved in this proceeding are cooperating,” the D.O.C. said. “The department also determines that this investigation is extraordinarily complicated in light of the number and complexity of the alleged countervailable subsidy programs and the need to determine the extent to which particular countervailable subsidies are used by individual manufacturers, producers and exporters.”

With those determinations, the D.O.C. under law is allowed to delay the preliminary determination from no later than 65 days to no later than 130 days after the date on which it initiated the investigation.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has strongly urged the United States and Mexico to work out a negotiated settlement to avoid an all-out trade “war” that may reach far beyond sugar. Some in the trade see the D.O.C.’s decision to delay a determination as providing time for such a negotiated settlement to be worked out.

Prices for bulk refined sugar have increased about 30% to 18-month highs since the petition was filed at the end of May. Beet processors and cane refiners earlier this week raised offering prices for bulk refined sugar to 37c a lb f.o.b., and in the case of one cane refiner, to 38c.