ASGA Terry Jones, president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association and a Powell, WY, grower told the House Agriculture Committee today that "piecemeal market access concessions in bilateral and regional free trade agreements" that are being sought by the Administration could "put our American industry out of business."
Jones told Congressmen that pursuing bilateral and regional free trade agreements "will not solve the global subsidy problem" affecting the world sugar market. He said for two decades dump-market sugar has been selling for about half of what it costs to produce."
Jones said, "The sugar subsidy problem is a global problem. It must be addressed globally in the WTO--in comprehensive, multilateral negotiations with all countries, all programs."
He went on to say the U.S. sugar industry applauds Trade Ambassador Robert Zoellick's efforts earlier this year to restart the WTO process.
He said the Bush Administration has "rightfully refused to negotiate domestic farm policy in the FTAs. But the U.S. sugar policy is unique among commodity programs in that it can only operate if imports are controlled to balance the domestic market. Therefore, negotiating tariffs or increasing imports is, in fact, negotiating our domestic policy...and could doom our industry."
Jones told Congressmen: "We categorically oppose any agreement that requires additional access to our market and threatens our domestic policy."
Speaking of agreements, Jones said that in the Australian FTA, "the Administration got it right." He said "Australia is already the fourth largest supplier to our market, with minimum imports valued at more than $40 million. If our market needs more imports, Australia will automatically get greater access as part of an expanded tariff rate quota."
On the other hand, the sweetener provisions between the U.S. and Mexico in the NAFTA "have been a disaster." Jones said that after 10 years, the sweetener dispute between the two countries "still rages on."
As for CAFTA, the proposed FTA with five Central American countries, he said the U.S. sugar indsutry is "strongly opposed" to the sugar provisions in the proposal.
Jones noted, too, that currently the Administration is considering FTAs with 21 countries that have the potential of exporting 23 million tons of sugar a year.
He noted that the U.S. is already the fourth largest net importer of sugar. "If we include sugar in these FTAs, our market will be swamped with subsidized foreign sugar, our industry will be destroyed, and we will not have addressed any foreign subsidies, which can only be done in the WTO."
At the beginning of his testimony, Jones, who represented the entire U.S. sugar industry at the hearing, gave a quick word picture of the American industry. He said the U.S. sugar industry creates more than 146,000 jobs across the nation, generates more than $9.5 billion positive economic activity to the U.S. economy, provides a variety of products to customers at fair prices, and it does this at no cost to the taxpayers.
"It is a record we are proud of," Jones said.