WASHINGTON D.C.: A major American think tank has accused the United States of hypocrisy in its sugar policy towards the Caribbean.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA) said while the U.S. pushes economic openness for other nations, including the Caribbean, it “actively employs protectionist policies when it comes to its own closely-held economy”, stating that this is “especially true with sugar”.
COHA said the U.S. government “heavily subsidizes its sugar sector, imposes quotas on sugar imports, and then hectors developing countries on the wisdom of cutting back on their own subsidies”.
According to COHA, these measures protect private U.S. sugar producers from foreign competition, allowing them to seek “unreasonably high prices” in the U.S. market.
“U.S. consumers are likely to lose from these policies, as they end up paying higher prices at U.S. supermarkets, and moreover, Caribbean sugar prices also have been adversely affected by U.S. protectionism in the sugar industry,” said COHA.
COHA said the implementation of sugar quotas by the U.S. has resulted in “colossal losses” for Latin American and Caribbean sugar economies, stating that sugar quotas have “often been used for political objectives against Caribbean countries”.
The think tank said since 1985, millions of U.S. dollars have been spent and wasted in an attempt to revive the sugar industry by poor Caribbean-basin countries.
As a result, sugar industries in Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago and Belize “now face difficulty in exporting sugar due to protectionist U.S. sugar policies”.
COHA said in most Caribbean islands, the Agriculture Production Index, a measure of aggregate agricultural production in a given time period; has been declining in the past few decades because of U.S. farm subsidies.
The think tank said that some advocates of the United States’ sugar policy argue that, in a globalized world, Caribbean countries can target other larger markets. However, COHA said European sugar policies are “hardly any different from those of the United States”.
The quota system is another aspect of U.S. sugar policy, as the quantities of imports above the quota limit are subject to “stiff duties”.
“Sugar imports that exceed set quotas are struck with a prohibitively high duty of 16 cents per pound, which is sufficiently high to make sugar imports unprofitable,” said COHA. The think tank said that Caribbean countries have “the most restrictive penalties in place, keeping their sugar out of the U.S. market”.
“(Many of these are) impoverished Caribbean countries that have been producing sugar for centuries,” said COHA, adding that Cuba, Belize, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, St Kitts & Nevis, and Trinidad & Tobago are/were amongst the major sugar producers in the region.
“In a world where global economies are indelibly interconnected, protectionist policies by the United States can have serious ramifications for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. U.S. consumers would be better off buying lower cost sugar from Caribbean basin countries, and Caribbean farmers living in poverty need fair access to the U.S. market,” said COHA.