Mexican sugar exec says US relations already changed due to NAFTA discussions
DANA POINT, Calif. — A key Mexican sugar industry executive said recently that, while Americans may see the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement as something coming in the future, Mexicans already believe the relationship has changed.
“Americans ask what is going to happen while Mexicans are already acting on what they believe is happening,” Humberto Jasso Torres, director general of the Mexican National Chamber of the Sugar and Alcohol Industries, said at the International Sweetener Colloquium. The event is cosponsored by the International Dairy Foods Association and the Sweetener Users Association.
Jasso Torres did not make references to the many negative comments that President Donald Trump has made about Mexico and Mexicans, but pointed out that a Mexican presidential visit had been canceled.
A Mexican legislator has proposed a bill to ban U.S. corn imports, and Mexican officials have talked about traveling to Brazil and Argentina to make inquiries about importing corn and soybeans from those countries.
Jasso Torres made the comments during a panel discussion about U.S.-Mexican sugar relations.
Mexico is currently exporting sugar to the U.S. under agreements that suspended cases that U.S. sugar producers had brought to U.S. authorities claiming that Mexico had been subsidizing sugar and dumping it below cost in the U.S.
U.S. cane refiners have been dissatisfied with the way the agreements have been working because they don’t have enough raw sugar to refine, and Mexican and U.S. officials have been trying to resolve the conflict.
During the discussion, panelists said they fear the suspension agreements issue will be folded into the larger question of the future of NAFTA, which Trump has said must be renegotiated.
The Mexican chamber “does not want to implode relations,” Jasso Torres said. “Since we are neighbors we should find some sort of solution.”
Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told House Ways and Means Committee Democrats that the Trump administration this month will formally notify Congress of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA, ranking member Richard Neal, D-Mass., and other panel Democrats told Inside U.S. Trade.
“He made it clear, some time around March 15 we’ll be formally notified, that will commence the 90-day review period,” Neal said of the Feb. 28 meeting with Ross. “I think it was pretty clear they were going to be very aggressive in the renegotiation of NAFTA,” according to the Inside U.S. Trade report.
In a separate story, Inside U.S. Trade said that while Ross is expected to have a big role in trade policy, lawmakers on the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees have said it is unclear whether Ross could lead the NAFTA negotiations or whether that role is reserved for the U.S. trade representative.
Trump has chosen attorney Robert Lighthizer for U.S. trade representative, but Lighthizer has not yet had a confirmation hearing. The Trade Promotion Authority law requires that the intent to begin negotiations be published on the USTR website, Inside U.S. Trade noted. ❖