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The proposal

The proposal would eliminate two other provisions in NAFTA. One allows Mexico to import low-cost sugar as a substitute for Mexican sugar, which then could be sold to the United States at a higher price. The other would eliminate "re-import" restr...

The proposal would eliminate two other provisions in NAFTA. One allows Mexico to import low-cost sugar as a substitute for Mexican sugar, which then could be sold to the United States at a higher price. The other would eliminate "re-import" restrictions on processed sugar items such as powdered iced tea that are now made in Mexico and cannot be exported to the United States.

Roney noted that trade agreements such as the Central America Free Trade Agreement negotiated after NAFTA prohibit such practices.

Foreseeable consequences

Opposition is stiff from the corn and sweetener users industries.

Erickson, of the Corn Refiners Association, says that would result in a glut of sugar in the Mexican market that would force Mexico to restrict the importation of corn syrup, which often is used in place of sugar, particularly in soft drinks.

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She called the trade formula proposed by the sugar industry "complex, vague, arbitrary and impossible to enforce and could invite retaliation against our sector," high-fructose corn syrup.

The corn industry battled with Mexico for more than a decade over trade restrictions imposed on high-fructose corn syrup. Those restrictions ultimately were ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization, but Erickson says people in the industry "do not want to return to that state of affairs."

Erickson says the sugar industry proposal "violates NAFTA and WTO (World Trade Organization) agreements. It sets up managed trade when, in fact, we should have an open border with Mexico in all commodities."

Whether the sugar industry can overcome the procedural and political hurdles is unclear.

Two of the key players in the farm bill negotiations are Rep. Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn., chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D. Both states have large sugar beet industries, and the two lawmakers have generally been sympathetic to the sugar industry.

But neither Peterson nor Conrad has publicly endorsed the sugar industry's proposal. Peterson told reporters recently that he wants more information about how the proposal could other commodities. A Conrad spokesman says the senator has not seen a formal proposal but supports "fair trade" for sugar.||?Page=051 Column=004 Loose,0039.01?||

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