Senate Hopes to Sweeten CAFTA Sugar Deal

Meeting planned for Tuesday with sugar industry representatives to bring GOP congressional leaders closer to approving the trade pact. Compiled by staff

Published on: Jun 10, 2005

A meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday between sugar industry representatives and senators in an attempt to sweeten the Central American Free Trade Agreement for the sugar industry and their congressional representatives, according to CongressDaily.

Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., reports that the sugar industry doesn't want to be seen as working against the interests of the rest of agriculture who broadly support the agreement. The meeting will be an opportunity for senators to hear industry ideas for a possible compromise that would get the industry to drop its opposition to CAFTA.

Compromise ideas include a commitment from the White House to compensate Central American sugar producers with cash or other agricultural commodities. CAFTA already contains safeguard provisions that would allow the U.S. to do this and Trade Representative Robert Portman said he is willing to nail down how the details of that would work.

Another option would be to allow Central American sugar to be used only in the production of ethanol so that the U.S. sweetener market isn't disrupted. A provision like this could be hard to get past corn producers who own a large amount of ethanol facilities in the United States.

Earlier this week Senate Agriculture Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., met with half a dozen sugar executives before a panel hearing on the trade pact. It is expected that Chambliss will play the facilitator role between the White House, "as well as to calm down escalating resentment between pro-CAFTA groups like the Farm Bureau and sugar interests," CongressDaily reports.

According to a Senate source, the American Sugar Refining Company, American Sugar Cane League, American Crystal Sugar Company and American Sugarbeet Growers Association will attend the meeting.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley, the committee that has jurisdiction of all trade agreements, will begin a "mock markup" of the trade agreement also on Tuesday.