Candy makers mad at Obama and Congress for Mexico tariff

WASHINGTON Fri Aug 20, 2010 3:06pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Candy makers on Friday blamed President Barack Obama's administration and Congress for a new 20 percent duty on $45 million of U.S. chewing gum and chocolate exports to Mexico.

"Dozens of U.S. gum and chocolate makers large and small will immediately feel the effects of these duties," Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association, said in a statement.

"Millions of dollars of chocolate and gum exports are at risk."

Mexico announced the new border taxes this week to put pressure on the United States to open its market to Mexican long-haul trucks, as Washington committed to do nationwide by 2000 under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Some chocolate candy makers who have worked hard in recent years to break into the Mexican market now may not be able to compete with the new 20 percent tax, Graham said.

Mexico first retaliated more than a year ago on 89 U.S. agricultural, food and manufactured goods, but revised and expanded the list this week to 99 products to increase pressure on the United States to keep its NAFTA commitment.

The U.S. International Brotherhood of Teamsters union says it opposes allowing Mexican trucks to operate in the United States on safety grounds. It has urged the Obama administration to challenge Mexico's "excessive" retaliation.

Obama administration officials say they still hope to resolve the dispute with Mexico but have not yet given Congress any plan to do so.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Bill Trott)

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