By Mike Lillis
The nation's candy makers this week slammed Washington policymakers for failing to settle a trade dispute with one of their most lucrative export markets: Mexico.
The impasse, the National Confectioners Association warned Friday, will ding the industry with a 20 percent tax on tens of millions of dollars worth of chewing gum and chocolate products heading south of the border.
"Dozens of U.S. gum and chocolate makers large and small will immediately feel the effects of these duties," NCA President Larry Graham said in a statement.
The concerns come in response to this week's announcement by the Mexican government that it would expand the number of products subject to new border taxes — a move designed to pressure the U.S. to allow Mexican long-haul trucks on U.S. roadways.
Though the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allowed for those trucks to enter the U.S. beginning in 2000, concerns over the safety of those vehicles and the competence of their drivers — not to mention pressure from unions and U.S. trucking companies — has so far kept them out.
As a result, Mexico last year slapped new border taxes on 89 U.S.-made products, including many agriculture products. This week, Mexican officials expanded that number to 99.
"Previously, confections from the United States crossed the border duty-free under NAFTA," Graham said, estimating that $45 million worth of confections would be subject to the new tax.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates the tariffs have cost the United States at least 25,000 jobs.