WASHINGTON: US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday said his team is near to reaching an agreement with Mexico over the disputed sugar trade.
The sides extended the deadline for sugar negotiations by 24 hours to allow them to complete final technical consultations, he said.
“The two sides have come together in quite meaningful ways, but there remain a few technical details to work out,” Ross said in a statement.
“We are quite optimistic that our two nations are on the precipice of an agreement we can all support, and so have decided that a short extension of the deadline is in everyone’s best interest.”
Monday was the deadline for reaching an agreement to allow Mexican sugar exports to continue entering the
US market duty-free. Mexico exported 1.1 tonnes of sugar to the United States in 2016, according to government figures.
US trade officials are threatening to slap tariffs of up to 80 percent on Mexican sugar imports unless a deal is reached.
The dispute comes as the two neighbors, along with Canada, are set to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Mexican sugar has entered the US market tariff-free since 2008. In exchange, the Mexican market was opened to US corn-based fructose, used mainly to sweeten soft drinks.
US sugar companies and farmers have long accused Mexico of flooding the US market with subsidized sugar sold at below-market prices, and both governments agreed to Mexican sugar export quotas in 2014.
But complaints from US sugar concerns continued, Washington and Mexico City restarted sugar trade talks last year.