Sugar industry urges MPs to block TPP

By Leith van Onselen

Australia’s sugar industry has stepped-up its campaign against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, lobbying MPs to block the agreement unless substantial sugar access is achieved. From last night’s ABC Lateline:

EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: As the final moments tick down, Australian sugarcane growers have joined the fight, urging MPs to reconsider [the TPP]…

ANDREW ROBB, TRADE MINISTER: Sugar’s always difficult in a lot of these countries, but I haven’t resolved that, but I can tell you it’s the one that I’ve made the most noise about and I still am, but it’s on the table for resolution in this last round.

MATT CANAVAN, LNP SENATOR: I think it’s about time that Australia and other developing countries stand up to Washington and Brussels, who spend trillions of dollars protecting their farmers and corrupting international trade in agricultural markets.

TOM IGGULDEN: Just like President Obama, Tony Abbott’s facing opposition from within his own ranks to the deal. A bloc of Queensland Coalition MPs and senators is pushing the Trade Minister to force a concession on sugar or back away from a handshake.

MATT CANAVAN: And so we don’t have to do a deal. We have quite a strong economy and export quite a lot, thank you very much, under current trade agreements and trade arrangements. But unless there is some quid pro quo for the many tariffs and protections we removed on manufactured items in the last few decades, why would we do a deal?…

TOM IGGULDEN: The sugar industry and its representatives in Canberra [are] frustrated at the three trade deals the Abbott Government’s already signed in the region.

MATT CANAVAN: Sugar’s got nothing in China, nothing in Japan, nothing in Korea. It’s already had three strikes. But we were promised and have been promised that the next multilateral trade deal will deal with agriculture and specifically sugar. So Australian producers expect that sugar would be dealt with.

TOM IGGULDEN: It also missed out when the Howard Government signed a free trade deal with the US a decade ago…

TOM IGGULDEN: Just how far the supporters of the sugar industry in Parliament are prepared to go in opposing the TPP is uncertain. Labor’s likely to back the deal, despite internal opposition of its own, making parliamentary resistance futile. And the Trade Minister’s hands are tied. He’s unlikely to trash an entire deal to accommodate the demands of just one industry, making realistic options limited.

MATT CANAVAN: What we do next, well I can’t predict that or forecast that, only that I’ll always and everywhere do what’s best for my constituents and I’ll talk to them before I do anything in Canberra.

US President, Barrack Obama, has already stated that the US won’t slash agricultural tariffs and import quotas as part of the TPP, thus excluding Australian sugar and beef farmers from realising benefits, just as it did under the Australia-US FTA. So it looks like the sugar industry’s pleas will once again fall on deaf ears.

With both the Coalition and Labor set to back the TPP, Australia is destined to implement a dud trade agreement that will strengthen patent and copyright protections for US pharmaceutical and digital industries at the expense of Australian consumers/taxpayers, whilst also introducing risky investor-state dispute settlement provisions that could permit foreign firms to sue Australian taxpayers if/when the Government legislates in the national interest.

Bend over and watch as your political leaders sell you out to US corporate interests.

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Leith van Onselen

Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.

Comments

  1. sydboy007MEMBER

    Will be interesting to see just how badly the Nats have to contort themselves when shafting the farmers.

    Maybe the farmers need to create their own party because the Nats don’t seem to do much for them these days.

    • Nats are fascists just like the Libs. They just need to “play sorry” or “play tough” but will end up backing their corporate sponsors.

  2. The Mafia has established protocols for traitors which are a useful guide in this case for Robb.

  3. Guys, there is ample evidence that sugar is up there with nicotine as a danger to personal health and society generally. The sooner the sugar industry is dismantled the better the nation will be.
    Just have a look around at all the fatties waddling the streets, mostly the result of sugar.
    The only way forward for this nation it to improve its productivity. The first element in improved productivity is the health of the workforce. Probably the greatest detriment to modern health is the ubiquitous presence of sugar in food. Until sugar is mostly removed from everyday food, we are going to eat our way into the poorhouse then the grave. WW

    • I strongly agree about the dangers of sugar – it is the real dietary evil, not saturated fats. However, I fail to see how this is relevant in this case. All including sugar in the TPP would do is displace high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the US. Sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose, whereas HFCS is 45% glucose and 55% fructose. So they are almost identical. Some people also argue that fructose is worse than glucose, since it is processed in the liver and turned straight into fat.

      • Stick to economics. This precis w.r.t to sugar being evil is provable false.

        Sugar is not the problem. Sorry. Sugar in and of itself is not the cause of obesity.

        Look to the presence of fat + sugar and the ability of sugar to exit bloodstream in the absence of fat.

        (Notwithstanding that all that softdrink and HFCS isn’t great – my point is that your contention is very wrong. Eat fat, get fat. Look to animal proteins and fats as the culprit. )

      • tmarsh,

        Sounds like you best steer clear of nutrition if you are diminishing the significance of fructose (either in the form of the disaccharide sucrose or running free in HFCS) with regards to obesity.

        Concentrated fructose is added to food for a very simple reason – intense sweetness is habit forming and adding it to anything (Fats, carbies – even those honey carrots that Granny made – makes people want to eat more than they should).

        There is also a view that the metabolism of fructose raises issues – especially when it is consumed in the quantities common in the diets of most people. Those issues include – satiety, ready metabolism to blood fats etc.

        Lacing food products with intense sweetness is one of the great unit shifting techniques of industrial food production. One need only look at the sales of Coke Zero and Diet Coke to understand that it is sweetness that is shifting the product as much as any tendency of fructose to be metabolised without setting off the fullness switch.

        Having said that, if we are not prepared to control or tax our coal exports I don’t see why we should unilaterally stop exporting fructose to the world.

      • Lol I thought people were finally getting over the myth that eating fat makes you fat. Nutrition science has moved a long way from the dark days of fat-free labeling and heart smart approval.

      • Pfh007 correct in my view. I cant remember the book, but it basically tells the story of food science in the US and the evolution from fat to sugar as an accelerator to increased sales. Human response to added sugar was shown to be by far the most effective way to shift product. Sugar wins every time.

        Now the extent to which this is detrimental to human health is certainly arguable, but only because nutrition is such an infant inexact science. Food manufacturers exploit this uncertainty, but the one thing you can be 100% sure of is that they have NO CLUE what their various added chemicals do to human health because it cannot be proven, or at least takes literally decades. And they don’t care anyway, until someone is able to stop them. Remember that its now fairly certain that trans fats cause heart disease yet food companies have been selling Vegetable Oil as a HEALTHY alternative to the natural product butter for 80 years, very likely causing a global epidemic of heart disease. Vegetable Oils (which BTW is Corn Oil, yes another wonderful corn byproduct) are based on Trans Fats.

      • drsmithyMEMBER

        Eat fat, get fat. Look to animal proteins and fats as the culprit.

        The French disagree.

    • Our sugar producers are the most efficient on the planet. Shafting a world-class Australian industry is not going to do anything for productivity.

      • Last I saw sugar was 11.2c/lb (Landline on the weekend) That is below the cost of production.
        If it wasn’t for subsidies sugar producers would be out of business.
        In Qld, the majority of the damage to the reef is from excess fertiliser from sugar growers.
        Here’s the rub. The Sugar mills in this country are well past their use by date.
        Many would struggle to get a valid engineering certificate for safety of operations. Some had a second lease of life with co gen of bagasse for electricity, but with the lower cost of solar that earner is now underwater.
        The big question is not about the growers but who will have the courage to install new infrastructure to keep the industry going for the next 60 years.
        I fully expect class actions against the sugar industry, much as litigation has been directed at the tobacco industry. Who would have thought sugar would kill you. I am only a recent convert. Interesting times.WW

      • Last I saw sugar was 11.2c/lb (Landline on the weekend) Tat is below the cost of production.
        If it wasn’t for subsidies sugar producers would be out of business.
        In Qld, the majority of the damage to the reef is from excess fertiliser from sugar growers.
        Here’s the rub. The Sugar mills in this country are well past their use by date.
        Many would struggle to get a valid engineering certificate for safety of operations. Some had a second lease of life with co gen of bagasse for electricity, but with the lower cost of solar that earner is now underwater.
        The big question is not about the growers but who will have the courage to install new infrastructure to keep the industry going for the next 60 years.
        I fully expect class actions against the sugar industry, much as litigation has been directed at the tobacco industry. Who would have thought sugar would kill you. I am only a recent convert. Interesting times.WW

      • Agree with WW on this: Our sugar growers are only the most efficient because the competition sucks. They also have the benefit of being in one of the most agriculturally advanced nations on earth. However, compared to other Aus ag. they are well behind the times.

  4. Ronin8317MEMBER

    Now that Obama has fast track authority, he can fold on sugar import, and there is nothing the Republican or Democrats can do to change it. So Australia is in a good position to push for the inclusion of sugar. Whether Andrew Robb care enough about Australians to bother is the real issue.

    • I don’t think that’s the case. The fast track authority just means he can negotiate it to its completion without checking with congress all the time, he still has to present a completed trade agreements to both houses to be voted in. They can still refuse to pass it. Just like us we can refuse to pass it. But what we do know is the libs will pass it, the greens will probably vote against it, but we now know that hollow man shorten is so running scared from abbots attacks, that labor will pass it, partly because they are a spineless party of losers but also because they are as corrupt as the libs.

      • Ronin8317MEMBER

        Without amendments, a trade deal including sugar will be passed by the US Senate and Congress, because the lobby money from pharmaceutical far out-weights the US sugar industry.

      • It will pass here, yes without amendments.
        I don’t believe it is an automatic pass in the US however. You may be correct. It may pass with no problems. But given that we have seen, there is more opposition in the US political sphere i don’t believe its guaranteed. Here though it will sail through because we are governed by spineless crooked politicians at all levels.

  5. What really bugs me about this is that our Aussie Sugar industry does not want a global Free market for sugar, what they want is to be added to the list of suppliers serving the totally corrupted/protected market for sugar in the US.
    No wonder these Free trade agreements are such a farce when all any participants ever seem to want is to somehow obtain a protected status and have this enshrined in international agreements.

  6. Got to remember that the Yanks don’t use sugar much, they use High Fructose Corn Syrup in its place in a huge variety of products (biscuits, cake, bread, ketchup etc etc). There is a very long story behind this but basically its because subsidised corn farmers can produce this by-product at very low cost and sell to food manufacturers.

    Of course there will be a US market for sugar also, but given the substitutability Aussie sugar would be fighting against corn farming also, a much more powerful lobby.

    Incidentally HFCS seems almost certain to be even more harmful than normal sugar, but the lobby has kept that argument at bay so far (having recently lost the battle on Trans Fats ).

  7. ceteris paribus

    The TPP is a normal and healthy example of big business participation in democracy. Why not? After all, they pay their taxes, don’t they?

  8. PlanetraderMEMBER

    tmarsh
    (Notwithstanding that all that softdrink and HFCS isn’t great – my point is that your contention is very wrong. Eat fat, get fat. Look to animal proteins and fats as the culprit. )

    you are completely wrong about that – have a look at work by stephen finney and jeff volek
    or download the movie “Cereal Killers” and see what vested interest has created

    i eat a high fat low carb and little sugar diet and am not fat and am in fact extremely healthy. ithink UE must do similar as i recall he said he ate 4 eggs a day some time ago
    over the next 10 years there will be a substantive change in the way we view diet but it will be slow given the huge vested interests

    • Best way to reduce weight is to remove “cane and grain” from your diet – sugar (cane) and wheat (grain). You’ll shed kilos if you’re carrying a few too many without changing anything else in your life (i.e., exercise).

      If you can’t live without them substitute them for fresh fruits and rice/spelt/rye/millet flour, etc. Paleo is the way to go but bloody hard especially living in a family that doesn’t want that sort of diet.

    • + many planetrader and same here.Sugar and carbs are the problem and not fat. keeping it simple, Fat is an essential food that the body needs to function properly unlike carbs/sugars and for fuel, the body prefers fats during day to day normal functioning and only prefers to carbs when exercising. Lots more into it of course. Last week there was a documentary about the sugar industry in the states and how they used their power to hide the truth on how bad sugar is and how they blamed all the obesity wows on fats!
      @MrMedved, you need grains(whole) in your diet for the dietary fiber and vitamins/minerals they provide…
      Only way to loose weight is via calorie control whether it’s sugar or proterin or fats it doesn’t matter(that stuff matters when it comes to being healthy i guess). Have more calories than your body needs and you put on weight, less calories than you loose weight

  9. Interesting discussion at work. Are Australia’s gun laws restrictive and subject to TPP? The consensus is they are. Does anyone know? Imagine the profits foregone if we bought arms at the US rate.

  10. Guys, Just had a spare half hour, so looked up the status of the sugar industry. In few words it is rooted.
    We hear all about the IO spiral dive and all the person s affected, but the sugar industry is also on the ropes and with the recent findings of sugar being damaging to personal health, the outcome for the industry is black.
    Some notes from a report, Just in case this message gets into the hierarchy of politics.
    W.Truss where are you. WW
    At present the sugar industry is largely unprofitable and the business management skills are variable and often not well-developed. The notion of “industry leadership” is often focused on sectoral representation at state level while the profit centre is at regional level.
    The technical and production needs of the industry are generally known, as is the required technology. However a whole of value chain systems approach to all aspects of operations is lacking.
    Queensland needs to support many thousands of farming businesses, hundreds of harvesting businesses, dozens of milling businesses and one marketing business.
    Revenue turnover of the industry per farm over the last 10 years measured has been relatively static with increasing input costs, to support the same number of farms.
    Brazil is here to stay, competing strongly on the world market. Not everyone in the Australian industry will remain fully employed by it. An option for farmers is suggested, using formation of cooperative farms to allow residence and property title to remain with the present owners, but not necessarily to provide full time jobs.
    There have been urgent calls for immediate welfare-type assistance to be provided to the industry in the short term, to assist farmers through the current situation of low world sugar prices and widespread drought conditions. Such welfare assistance would presumably be along the lines of the Sugar Industry Assistance Package (income support, interest rate subsidies), although there have been additional calls for per-hectare funding for growers to establish a 2003 crop
    For the Full report>>>http://www.apec.org.au/docs/06_TP_Sugar/04_report.pdf