SHAHEEN, TOOMEY LEAD BIPARTISAN CALL URGING COMMERCE DEPARTMENT TO PROTECT AMERICAN CONSUMERS AND JOBS

Senators stress risks of potential trade agreement on Mexican sugar imports

July 29, 2014

(Washington, DC) – U.S Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) led a bipartisan coalition today expressing concern about a potential Department of Commerce agreement with Mexico that could increase sugar prices. In a letter to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, the Senators spoke against any potential suspension agreement with the Mexican sugar industry and Government of Mexico which could “threaten the viability of American food manufacturers and raise food prices for American families.”

“Any managed trade agreement between the United States and Mexico, whether in the form of a suspension agreement or other mechanism, will raise sugar prices in the United States,” the Senators wrote. “This will cost American jobs, hurt consumers and encourage retaliatory trade actions to the detriment of both the United States and Mexico.”

For years, Senators Shaheen and Toomey along with Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) have led a bipartisan effort to reform the U.S.’ outdated sugar program that has cost consumers and businesses an estimated $14 billion since 2008 and led to a $250 million taxpayer-funded sugar industry bailout last year.

Shaheen and Toomey’s bipartisan letter was co-signed by  Senators Kirk,  Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John Boozman (R-AR), Robert Casey (D-PA), Daniel Coats (R-IN), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Chris  Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mike Lee (R-UT), John McCain (R-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

The full text of the letter is below.

July 29, 2014

The Honorable Penny Pritzker                                  

Secretary                                                                                            

U.S. Department of Commerce                                

1401 Constitution Avenue, NW                                 

Washington, DC 20230                                                  

Dear Secretary Pritzker:

We are concerned by reports that the Department of Commerce may resolve the recently filed antidumping and countervailing duty cases on imported sugar from Mexico by imposing import quotas on Mexican sugar via a suspension agreement with the Mexican sugar industry and Government of Mexico. Such a suspension agreement will violate our nation’s commitment to free and open trade with Mexico, threaten the viability of American food manufacturers and raise food prices for American families.

Under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the United States and Mexico are allowed to trade sweeteners amongst each other without duties or quotas. NAFTA’s creation of an open market in sweeteners was carefully negotiated and implemented over a period of 15 years and finalized in 2008. This mutual market access is beneficial to the United States: U.S. growers and refiners do not produce enough sugar to meet the demands of U.S. consumers, and imports are necessary to keep America’s food manufacturers competitive in the global marketplace.

In 2013, due to factors outside of the scope of these antidumping and countervailing duty cases, global sugar prices fell dramatically, and in the United States prices fell below minimum levels guaranteed by the Department of Agriculture. This resulted in $258 million in federal payouts to the sugar industry at taxpayer expense, as a result of the failed federal sugar program. Mexican growers are being blamed for the decline in U.S. prices, but Mexican sugar does not threaten our domestic industry. To the contrary, since 2008, American sugar producers have expanded their domestic market share, increased production by 13 percent and experienced some of their highest profits on record during four of the past seven years. 

Any managed trade agreement between the United States and Mexico, whether in the form of a suspension agreement or other mechanism, will raise sugar prices in the United States. This will cost American jobs, hurt consumers and encourage retaliatory trade actions to the detriment of both the United States and Mexico.

We urge you to carefully consider your agency’s obligations under current law and NAFTA and reject calls to weaken the U.S.-Mexican trade relationship.

Thank you for your thorough attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John Boozman (R-AR), Robert Casey (D-PA), Daniel Coats (R-IN), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Chris  Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mike Lee (R-UT), John McCain (R-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

CC: The Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture

The Honorable Michael Froman, U.S. Trade Representative