Jason Hafemeister, trade counsel to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, gave the keynote speech at the International Sweetener Colloquium.
Adopting an aggressive U.S. trade agenda in Asia is critical for U.S. agriculture’s continued growth, according to Jason Hafemeister, trade counsel to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who gave the keynote address this week at the International Sweetener Colloquium in Orlando, Florida. He also outlined the importance of the current negotiations for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and their potential impact on sugar markets.
The annual event, co-sponsored by the IDFA and the Sweetener Users Association (SUA), drew nearly 500 people from 10 countries.
Ag Manufacturing Remains Strong
Agricultural manufacturing, the biggest sector of American manufacturing, has a strong voice in the trade discussion, said Hafemeister. When USDA talks about trade for agriculture, he said, it means opening new markets, which are primarily located in Asia. He warned that competitors like Australia, Mexico and Canada have already secured trade agreements in Asian markets and that the United States has “fallen behind.” He pointed to the Chinese and Japanese markets as priority areas for the United States to quickly pursue pacts.
“We are interested in anything we can do to increase market access to China,” he said. “Almost everything we send to China is burdened in agriculture in one way or another.”
Hafemeister also said that USDA would eagerly support a discussion with Japan on a bilateral or multilateral agreement to improve upon gains the United States would have received under the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Last month, 11 countries, including Japan, Mexico and Canada, announced the conclusion of a new Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which replaces the original TPP that included the United States.
Hafemeister noted that high tariffs are still a major restriction to agricultural trade between the United States and many of its trading partners, adding that these tariffs are lowered primarily through securing trade agreements.
“The opportunity to get into Canada and to modernize the agreement to create opportunities is a priority,” Hafemeister said regarding efforts by the United States, Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He said the “big blemish” to the 24-year-old pact is Canada’s restrictions on dairy, poultry and eggs.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really crack open that market,” he said.
U.S. sweetener users have important provisions at stake in the NAFTA negotiations. If countries pull out of NAFTA, Hafemeister said, U.S. tariffs on Mexican sugar would jump from zero to 100 percent.
He noted that one U.S. objective for renegotiating NAFTA is to improve the U.S. trade balance and reduce the trade deficit with the NAFTA countries. He clarified that the trade deficit arises as a result of several factors, not only as a result of trade agreements, and that trade deficits expand as the U.S. economy grows and fall during periods of recession.
Hafemeister’s remarks kicked off a strong series of sessions that covered pressing issues for the sweetener industry. Over the course of the three-day program, more than 30 speakers and panelists shared insights on the U.S. and international sweetener markets, the U.S. administration’s approach to nutrition and labeling regulations, changing markets for dairy and cocoa, shifting shopper behaviors, achievements in sustainability and other hot topics for sweetener users.
In addition, Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report and renowned political forecaster, discussed the factors that will have the strongest impact on the upcoming mid-term elections and the chances of party changes at each level.
The International Sweetener Colloquium has been hosted by IDFA and the SUA
for more than 30 years.
This year, nearly 500 industry professionals attended from the United States, Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Conference sponsors for the International Sweetener Colloquium include ADM; Cargill; Domino Foods, Inc.; DTN; Evergreen Sweeteners, Inc.; Imperial Sugar Company; Ingredion Incorporated; JSG Commodities; National Sugar Marketing LLC; and Sugaright, a division of CSC Sugar.
The 2019 International Sweetener Colloquium will be held Feb. 24-27 at the Turnberry Isle Miami in Aventura, Florida.
For more information, contact Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org.