Trade Commission rules cheap, subsidized sugar from Mexico hurt U.S. producers; agreement in force to protect U.S. industry _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- A combine and tractor and trailer harvest sugar cane along La. 18 in Edgard in 2014. The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Tuesday that Mexico’s sugar industry harmed American producers by dumping cheap, subsidized sugar onto the U.S. market.

The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Tuesday that Mexico’s sugar industry harmed American producers by dumping cheap, subsidized sugar onto the U.S. market.

The verdict means that an agreement negotiated between the U.S. and Mexican governments aimed at preventing dumping will remain in effect for at least five years.

In Louisiana, sugar cane was grown in 2014 on 412,351 acres in 23 parishes. The 11 operating raw sugar factories in the state processed 12.8 million tons of cane.

Jim Simon, manager of the American Sugar Cane League, the trade group that represents the Louisiana sugar cane industry, said he was pleased with the ITC vote.

“We’re confident that we can compete fairly on a level playing field, but it’s very difficult to compete against a government that unfairly supports its sugar industry. Allowing the negotiated settlement to stand will help our farmers stay in business and produce sugar safely and efficiently.”

“U.S. sugar producers want NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) to operate as intended and to foster free and fair sugar trade between Mexico and the United States,” said Phillip Hayes, a spokesman for the American Sugar Alliance. “Today’s ruling helps accomplish that goal by upholding the governments’ agreement and addressing the unfair trade practices that were injuring American farmers, workers and taxpayers.”

Sugar producers filed cases against Mexico in March 2014. The ITC and U.S. Department of Commerce then launched investigations into Mexico’s sugar industry.

The Commerce inquiry concluded on Sept. 16 and found that Mexico’s sugar industry had benefited from subsidy rates up to 44 percent and had shipped sugar to the United States at dumping margins of more than 42 percent. The Commerce Department had said the dumping caused American sugar producers to lose roughly $1 billion from 2013 to 2014.

The ITC finished its examination Tuesday, ruling that these actions injured U.S. interests. Officials had said that ruling will lead to a more fair price for sugar and alleviate the injury that artificially low prices had on the American industry.