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USTR: No more market access for Australia, Canada remains a question

By JERRY HAGSTROM

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — The U.S. government will not negotiate any new market access with Australia and three other countries that are original partners in the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, but has not decided if it will negotiate more market access with Canada, a key U.S. trade official told the American Sugar Alliance here today.

Although Australia has been pushing for more sugar market access, Sharon Bomer Lauritsen, an assistant U.S. trade representative, said the Obama administration had decided the United States “absolutely” will not negotiate increased market access with Australia, one of the four TPP countries with which the United States already has free trade agreements. She also said the United States will not renegotiate the agreements it already has with Chile, Peru and Singapore.

Bomer said that the United States would negotiate over market access with other TPP partners, including Vietnam and Malaysia, which have sugar production. But she added, “We realize that we need to balance how we handle sugar.”

Asked whether the rule also applies to Mexico and Canada, which have asked to join the TPP but which also are part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Bomer said there is no issue with Mexico because there is already free trade there in agricultural products, and that no decision has been made about Canada.

Canada maintains tariffs on dairy and poultry, she noted, while the United States maintains restrictions on sugar-containing products and peanut butter.
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Sharon Bomer Lauritsen
“Both countries have indicated their willingness to sit down and talk about that,” Bomer said, but added that the United States has not yet sought advice from industry on the issue. The original 1987 U.S.-Canadian free trade agreement was not comprehensive and did not cover sugar and sugar-containing products, she noted.

She also noted that TPP involves negotiations on sanitary and phytosanitary issues, and that the United States wants to expand transparency, to strengthen science and risk analysis, and to improve standards for testing imports.

The United States will hold public hearings in Washington in September on the applications by Mexico and Canada to join the TPP, she noted.

No final decisions have been made on how to handle dairy imports from New Zealand, she said.

Vietnam is the most important market among the current TPP countries, Bomer said. She also noted there is “lots of excitement” about Japan joining TPP, although no decision has been reached on that. U.S. negotiators hope that other Asian, Central American and South American countries also might join the group.

Bomer also noted that the Colombian and Panama free trade agreements contain provisions “to make sure that agreements will not have a negative impact on the sugar program.”

She said that the United States and the European Union have formed a high level working group on job growth, and that the group has said that a comprehensive, transatlantic agreement has the most potential for job and economic growth if it is achievable. She noted that the United States does not want to start a negotiation with the European Union if it cannot be concluded, but that the EU is keen to reach an agreement because it is experiencing so many economic problems.

A recommendation on whether to proceed will be sent to President Barack Obama before the end of the year, she said.

The European Union, she said, has tariffs on beef, poultry and pork, but “even worse,” uses sanitary and phytosanitary measures that the United States argues are without a basis. There are also disagreements between the United States and the European Union over technical barriers across sectors, approaches to regulation, transparency and public comment.

The Obama administration also believes that granting permanent normal trade relations status to Russia will not be a gift to that country but a smart investment, she noted.