* Analyst says 'no sugar for Australia' tattooed on U.S.
* Australia failed to gain new sugar exports from earlier
deal with U.S.
* U.S. stance said to potentially jeopardize its other goals
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, Sept 14 The U.S. government has told
domestic sugar producers that it does not plan to allow
Australia to export any additional sugar to the United States
under a proposed regional free trade pact, a U.S. sugar industry
analyst said on Friday.
That would be the second time that the United States has
denied Australia, one of its closest allies in the Asia-Pacific
region, additional sugar market access in a free trade
Tom Earley, vice president for Agralytica Consulting, said
he heard Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Sharon Bomer
Lauritsen make that promise at an American Sugar Alliance
meeting last month in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.
"They've tattooed it on USTR negotiators' fingers. You just
look at them. 'No sugar from Australia,' it says right there,"
Earley joked to reporters at an event organized by the National
Foreign Trade Council, an industry group.
Earley advises the Sweeteners Users Association, which
represents companies that make goods containing sugar. The group
has pushed for less restrictive U.S. sugar import policies,
including for Australia in the proposed Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) free trade pact.
The U.S. Trade Representative's office did not have an
immediate comment on Earley's remarks.
Although U.S. officials have said everything is on the table
in the TPP talks, sugar is a sensitive issue for the United
States. Sugar growers strongly defend their government program
and have political clout in Florida, a battleground state in the
November presidential election.
TPP talks are under way this week in Leesburg, Virginia, but
a final deal is not expected until late 2013.
U.S. sweetener users remain hopeful Australia will gain some
additional market access as part of the tough final bargaining
needed to reach a deal, Earley said.
The United States supports domestic sugar prices through a
combination of tariffs and quota restrictions.
Australia has one of the largest shares of the quota, with
the right to export at least 89,087 metric tons of sugar to the
United States each year.
But to the disappointment of Australian sugar producers, it
failed to win any additional access to the U.S. sugar market in
a bilateral free trade pact that went into force between the two
countries in January 2005.
Since then, the United States allowed Central American
countries and Colombia to export additional sugar to the United
States under separate free trade agreements.
Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade
Council, said it appeared Australia was opposing some key U.S.
priorities in the TPP talks to get leverage on sugar.
"What they're doing, which is exactly what I would be doing
if I was their negotiator, is not agreeing to things that we
want in order to send a signal," Reinsch said.
Unless the United States bends on sugar, it could jeopardize
some of its key objectives for the talks like establishing rules
for state-owned enterprises, he said.