SANTA ANA PUEBLO, N.M. — Although the latest round of talks in the Trans-Pacific Partnership ended last week without final agreement, indications are Australia may gain some additional access to the U.S. sugar market, but far from what that country sought and not so much as to undermine the U.S. sugar program, speakers said at the International Sweetener Symposium on Aug. 3 in Santa Ana Pueblo.
“It’s clear Australia is going to get something out of this agreement,” Don Phillips, trade adviser for the American Sugar Alliance, which sponsors the Symposium, told reporters after Monday’s speaker sessions. “We can give them something without undermining it (the U.S. sugar program).”
Mr. Phillips would not comment on news reports from Australia indicating the United States had offered to raise Australia’s export amount to around 150,000 tonnes, raw value, from about 87,000 tonnes as its current tariff rate quota.
Speaking earlier in the afternoon, Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Agricultural Affairs and Commodity Policy, iterated that both U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack were committed to not undermine the U.S. sugar program in TPP negotiations.
Sugar and dairy were the two primary points of contention for agriculture heading into TPP negotiations in Hawaii last week. After the talks ended, sugar appeared to be less of a sticking point, while dairy remained an issue.
“No decisions have been reached on either dairy or sugar,” Ms. Lauritsen said. “We did make progress, and I’m confident TPP is within reach. TPP is on a path toward conclusion. The last stage of negotiations is always the most difficult.” She said trade representatives returned to their respective countries to discuss remaining issues, but that a date had not been set for when talks would resume, adding that “we want to be sure we can conclude” TPP at the next meeting.
Mr. Phillips stressed that Australia would not get the full amount of additional access to the U.S. sugar market that it wanted, or what was suggested by one U.S. cane refiner during the latest round of talks. Louis Dreyfus Commodities’ Imperial Sugar Co. last week suggested Australia be given access equal to half of the quota Mexico has under the countervailing duty suspension agreement, which is forecast at about 1.55 million tons, raw value, in 2015-16.
“It will be something very limited in my view,” Mr. Phillips said.
Any additional amount added for Australia couldn’t undermine the recent suspension agreement between the United States and Mexico, Mr. Phillips said. That agreement, signed Dec. 19, 2014, gives Mexico an export quota filling the gap between domestic deliveries, World Trade Organization and current trade agreement amounts and projected U.S. use to maintain a minimum 13.5% U.S. ending stocks-to-use ratio. He said the United States keeps Mexico informed on a number of issues, considering Mexico also is one of the TPP countries.
Canada also had sought additional access to the U.S. sugar market, but had a much weaker case than Australia due to its small domestic sugar production and the fact it already ships a sizable amount of sugar-containing products to the United States, Mr. Phillips said.
“It was a disappointment” that TPP wasn’t concluded in the latest round of talks, Mr. Phillips said, adding that “they did make a lot of progress” and there are a lot of issues “out of the way.”
Mr. Phillips said the three major remaining TPP issues were dairy, intellectual property and rules of origin for automobiles.“Sugar is not resolved, but it’s not a huge problem,” he said. “Dairy seems very hard to resolve.”