As representatives from sugar-producing electorates and Queensland, Australia’s key sugar-producing state, we are adamant sugar cannot be left out of current Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and we are not prepared to accept any token deal.
We need a TPP deal that enables a significant increase in the market for Australian sugar because that is the only way the $2 billion industry is going to see increased returns.
A token deal for sugar in the TPP will not be sufficient. Sugar has been left out of many free trade agreements – notably the recent Free Trade Agreement with China and the 2005 agreement with the United States, which gave no significant quota to Australian sugar.
To make matters worse, in the 10 years since the last agreement, the United States has increased the sugar import quota for many other countries.
If they take the TPP seriously, they will offer a serious increase to Australia’s quota.
We are calling on the Australian Government’s key negotiators to fight for the Australian sugar industry alongside officials from rural lobby groups representing cane-growers and millers, who have travelled to Hawaii this week to participate in the latest round of TPP discussions.
If the Australian sugar industry does not receive a substantial improvement in market access under the TPP, we cannot support a deal. We could not in good conscience give support to enabling legislation for the TPP if it ignores one of the most important industries in our state.
A better deal for sugar is in the best interests of both countries. Restrictions on sugar imports push up domestic sugar prices in the US, at times to nearly double the world price. This has cost American consumers and businesses about $15 billion since 2008 in artificially inflated prices.
As the world’s third largest raw sugar exporter, the Australian Government has a significant interest in ensuring there is free and reasonable market access to our most significant trading partners, especially the United States.
The Australian cane growing industry supports more than 4000 families, mostly across Queensland, with countless communities reliant on the economic strength of the sector for business growth, jobs and prosperity.
It is our job to fight for these farming families and communities to ensure that they get a fair return for the hard work they do to produce food for the world. We need a good deal for Australian sugar so it’s a good deal for regional towns and regional jobs.
We now call on the Australian and United States Governments to use these TPP negotiations to increase market access for sugar.
For the intentions and merits of the TPP to be truly realised, all governments must commit to free and fair trade that enables commodities and products to enter the global marketplace and compete on their own merits.