(Chuck Muth) – U.S. sugar policy had a major role in Donald Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week, though not explicitly.
In talking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, Trump said…
“I pledge to never sign any trade agreement that hurts our workers, or that diminishes our freedom or our independence. We will never, ever sign these trade deals. . . . Instead, I will make individual deals with individual countries.
“No longer will we enter into these massive transactions, with many countries, that are thousands of pages long – and which no one from our country even reads or understands. We are going to enforce all trade violations against any country that cheats.”
“Individual deals with individual countries” was an interesting point since that’s exactly the U.S. policy when it comes to sugar.
Yes, there are import quotas in place for sugar as part of the U.S. sugar program. However, that doesn’t mean the U.S. doesn’t import sugar. We do. Lots of it.
In fact, according to Statista.com, the United States was the second biggest sugar importer, behind China, in 2014-2015.
And according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), we have bi-lateral agreements with some 40 countries – including the Dominican Republic and the Philippines – to import almost 1.5 million tons of raw sugar totaling almost $2 billion annually.
That’s significant trade by any measure.
By “cheating,” Trump most often and directly refers to China’s currency manipulations.
But he’s also referring to foreign governments – such as, when it comes to sugar, Brazil, India and Thailand – that subsidize their exports and give an unfair trade advantage over American producers and manufacturers.
Clearly the best way forward isn’t to scrap the current U.S. sugar program, but to improve it by expanding the number of trading partners whose governments agree to end their sugar subsidies in return for greater access to the U.S. market.
Fair and balanced trade. One country to another.
Who can argue with that?
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach and publisher of Nevada News & Views