KANSAS CITY — CSC Sugar LLC, New Canaan, Conn., has filed a brief in the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York arguing that the U.S. Department of Commerce’s failure to keep and make public records of meetings with outside parties while negotiating a U.S.-Mexico sugar trade pact should void the entire agreement.
CSC said the 30-page brief refers to meetings, phone calls and other off-the-record (ex parte) communications that occurred with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and other senior D.O.C. officials from June 2016 through June 2017 involved in negotiating the agreements.
Among those alleged to have engaged in private communications with the D.O.C. were executives of the largest U.S. sugar refiners, “whose century-old refineries benefited from a key change ushered in by the July 2017 agreement between the U.S. and Mexico to suspend the anti-dumping and countervailing duties implemented against the importation of Mexican sugar,” CSC said. Subsequently, CSC’s brief states that the D.O.C. moved in June 2017 to alter the definition of “refined sugar” in the agreement with Mexico to include a lower purity level — moving from 99.5% to 99.2% — as well as other changes in shipping requirements.
“The result of these changes was to give a competitive advantage to one segment of the U.S. domestic sugar industry (the U.S. refiners of cane sugar) at the expense of CSC Sugar and others for whom costs escalate when lower purity sugar must be processed,” CSC said.
Further, CSC said that on June 1, 2018, the Court of International Trade found that “there exists a sufficiently reasonable basis to believe the record is incomplete,” and ordered the D.O.C. to provide additional information by July 11, 2018, by “filing with the court the record of any ex parte meeting.”
CSC alleges in its brief that, while the D.O.C. has provided some information — and in some cases confirmed ex parte communications occurred — they also “admitted that, because of the time elapsed since the meetings, (D.O.C.) could no longer ‘summarize the information that was presented or discussed during the meetings and phone calls.’”
CSC argues that the inability to provide a full record, in violation of federal law, was substantially prejudicial and should render the underlying U.S.-Mexico sugar trade agreement invalid.
The trade agreements suspended sizable anti-dumping and countervailing duties placed on exports of Mexican sugar to the United States after U.S. sugar producers successfully argued in 2014 that subsidized and “dumped” sugar from Mexico had substantially harmed U.S. sugar producers. The agreements limit the quantity and type (refined versus “other”) of sugar, shipment periods and methods among other requirements. Sugar exports from Mexico to the United States had been duty-free and unlimited as of Jan. 1, 2008, under the North American Free Trade Agreement.