Nearly four dozen lawmakers make push for more U.S. sugar access

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is calling on top trade officials to provide greater access to the U.S. sugar market as part of  any final trans-Pacific trade deal.

Reps. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerOvernight Defense: Latest on scrapped Korea summit | North Korea still open to talks | Pentagon says no change in military posture | House passes 6B defense bill | Senate version advances House easily passes 7B defense authorization bill Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting MORE (D-Ore.) were joined by 43 lawmakers — 11 on the Ways and Means Committee — in arguing that expanding the sugar market in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will increase domestic supplies and lower prices for American consumers and food companies.

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They wrote that, at times, the U.S. domestic price for sugar has been double that of the world price, costing U.S. consumers and businesses an estimated $15 billion since 2008.

“That is because U.S. demand for sugar far exceeds both domestic production and allowed foreign imports under our current and outmoded tariff-rate quotas,” they wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanUS trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report Overnight Finance: Trump hits China on currency manipulation, countering Treasury | Trump taps two for Fed board | Tax deadline revives fight over GOP overhaul | Justices set to hear online sales tax case Froman joins Mastercard to oversee global business expansion MORE, which is endorsed by the Coalition for Sugar Reform.

TPP talks are ongoing in Atlanta this week with an aim to finally wrap up work on Thursday. 

The Agriculture Department expects that U.S. sugar imports will total 3.5 million metric tons from 2014-15, while imports need to increase to 4.5 million metric tons by 2025, according to the letter.

"This shows a need, and the space, for additional sugar imports," the lawmakers wrote.

"A significant opening of access to sugar increases competitiveness in the U.S. sugar market, improves efficiency, and reduces costs for consumers and businesses."

The lawmakers say that the U.S. sugar industry has lost 120,000 jobs in the past 15 years and increasing U.S. access to sugar will help reverse that trend. 

“Furthermore, opening the U.S. sugar market for our TPP negotiating partners also encourages reciprocal market access for a wide range of exporters of U.S. goods and services, including export-oriented, globally competitive food companies, farmers, and ranchers and advances the goal of a comprehensive trade agreement."