November 20, 2013

Canegrowers of Australia: Sugar must be part of a comprehensive trade deal

AUSTRALIAN SUGAR INDUSTRY ALLIANCE MEDIA RELEASE

Sugar must be part of the latest round of trade deals, says the concerned Australian sugarcane industry. 

Australia has always worked hard for sugar to be included in export trade agreements. It's a battle which has been hard fought, being a commodity which is renowned for having one of the most distorted global markets. According to the Australian Sugar Industry Alliance, countries such as the USA have maintained antiquated protectionist trade policies, which restrict access to its market to keep its domestic prices for sugar high and support its cane and beet sugar producers at the expense of consumers and global markets. 

The Australian Sugar Industry Alliance says that kind of protectionist behaviour is outmoded and should be a thing of the past for any country which believes itself to have a fair and ethical trade platform. 

"There is simply no place for tariffs, quotas or other trade restrictions for any production in a 21st century trade agreement," says Paul Schembri, Chairman of CANEGROWERS and Chairman of the Australian Sugar Industry Alliance trade committee.

"Being in the midst of negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement with the US, Japan and ten other countries in the Asia-Pacific, this is the time to push back hard against any proposed exclusions of agricultural products." 

The Australian sugar industry is taking a hard line against the distorted sugar market, saying the distortions must be removed to lift global prices to adequately reflect unsubsidised costs of produciton. 

Other agricultural commodities are taking a huge interest in sugar's trade battle, cognisant that excluding sugar would mean that other TPP countries would likely seek to exclude other so-called sensitive products such as rice, dairy, wheat, barley and pork as well as sugar from the TPP. 

"This is an outcome which would not sit at all well with the broader agricultural communities in Australia, New Zealand or the USA," says Mr. Schembri. 

"The health of the Australian economy is linked to the strength of our export markets.

"Fair trade must include market access gains for all agricultural products. There must be no exclusions. 

"In relation to sugar, the TPP agreement must include new market access opportunities for sugar, with annual increases thereafter, until open access is achieved and sugar can flow unimpeded around the region. 

"This will be an important step for sugar market liberalisation as part of the more challenging multi-lateral discussion that continue at the World Trade Organisation. 

The Australian sugar industry in working closely with the Australian Government on opening up blocked trade avenues for sugar, hoping that the industry's efforts will see sugar as the sweetener the latest trade negotations need to unlock the current export market access impasse. 

Eighty percent of Australian sugar is exported. Australian sugarcane farmers are the only sugarcane producers in the world who don't operate with subsidies or price supports. 

Removing barriers to markets will make Australian sugar more attractive to importers and create more opportunity for our exports says the Australian Sugar Industry Alliance. 

Dominic Nolan, CEO of the Australian Sugar Milling Council and member of the Australian Sugar Industry Alliance trade committee, is currently in the USA progressing Australia's position on the inclusion of sugar in the TPP. 

Media comments: Paul Schembri | CANEGROWERS Chair / ASA Trade Committee Chair | 0417 604 196
More information: Suzi Moore | CANEGROWERS Communications | 0427 641 239 or 07 3864 6444

Note: The Australian Sugar Industry Alliance is the peak, whole of supply chair body, with founding members CANEGROWERS and the Australian Sugar Milling Council representing in excess of 80 percent of Australian growers and 95 percent of Australian raw sugar production.