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Sugar Wars Advance on Valentine's Day
Date: 2/14/2013
Written By: National Journal, By Niraj Chokshi

Excerpt: Before you bite into that next Valentine's Day morsel, you may want to contemplate the complex sugar subsidies behind it — and their far-reaching impact on the U.S. economy. A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would unwind price supports for domestic sugar producers. Authors of the bill argue they say are unnecessary, unfair and boost sugar prices at the expense of consumers and jobs. But sugar producers say those same subsidies keep prices in check and the industry competitive. It's an almost perennial battle that can affect jobs and trade, depending on whom you ask. … Additionally, the subsidies can hinder trade negotiations, opponents of the program say. The U.S. insistence that sugar be exempted from a free-trade agreement with Australia paved the way for South Korea to make a similar demand of the U.S. with regard to rice, they argue. "This stuff grows and escalates. If you let one do it, then the list is going to get very long because everybody wants protection," said Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which promotes free trade. The prospects of the new effort aren't certain. A similar measure to end the sugar subsidies came within four votes of passing the Senate last summer, which offers some hope for that chamber, Reinsch said. "I would be moderately optimistic about the Senate," he said. "I think the House is still going to be a heavy lift."