A war of words has erupted in the ongoing sugar dispute between Mexico and the United States but despite the deadline for a new accord drawing nearer, Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo maintains that there is still time for negotiation.
A new agreement must be forged by Monday to ensure that Mexican sugar continues to enter the U.S. market tariff-free but U.S. sugar growers are pushing for greater protection measures.
The American Sugar Alliance (ASA), a coalition of sugar producers, took out a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post this week in which it blamed the dumping of sugar by Mexico for putting an end to sugar production in Hawaii.
Under the title, “When aloha means adiós,” the ad calls on the U.S. government to impose tariffs on Mexican sugar to protect the American industry.
However, Juan Cortina, the head of Mexico’s national trade organization for the sugar industry, the CNIAA, denies that Mexican sugar is to blame for what happened in Hawaii.
Instead he accuses the ASA of “absurd lies” and responded that, “According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 80% of sugar production in Hawaii had already closed down before trade liberalization of sweeteners came into effect under NAFTA in 2008.”
He goes on to say, “A January 2016 press release from the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company never mentioned Mexico as a factor that influenced the closure of the company and instead referred to things like community opposition to the burning of sugar cane.”
Cortina concluded that the U.S. position was a ploy to stop Mexican refined sugar from entering the market to reduce competition.
“These lies show that the American sugar industry doesn’t have any arguments to defend its true intention of forcing Mexican sugar to be refined by two companies in the U.S to the detriment of other internal competitors.”
If Mexican sugar is subjected to tariffs or further quota restrictions, the CNIAA advocates a tit-for-tat strategy by imposing similar measures on U.S. imports of high-fructose corn syrup.
Meanwhile, Ildefonso Guajardo says that no ultimatums have been given by either side and if there had been, dialogue would have already broken down.
He maintained that discussions with his U.S. counterpart were continuing and while he remains confident that an agreement can be reached by the deadline, he did concede that it couldn’t be guaranteed and that the coming days would be crucial.
Guajardo also reiterated that blocking access of refined Mexican sugar to the U.S. market would be unacceptable as it would upset the balance of the North American market for sweeteners.