U.S. Extends Sugar Talks With Mexico as Both Countries Near Deal

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. extended its deadline to reach a deal with Mexico on talks over sugar as the two countries neared an agreement that would prevent a tit-for-tat trade dispute.

A U.S. pledge to suspend duties on imports of Mexican sugar was due to expire at the end of Monday. But the Commerce Department said in a statement that the deadline will be extended by a day to “complete final technical consultations.”

“The two sides have come together in quite meaningful ways, but there remain a few technical details to work out,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in the 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.”

American Sugar Alliance spokesman Phillip Hayes said in a statement there are several more “important issues that remain unresolved” in the negotiations, though he’s “hopeful” a deal could be reached to end what he said was Mexican dumping of sugar.

Ross had threatened to end the three-year truce and reinstate anti-dumping and countervailing duties if no deal could be reached by Monday. Mexican sugar producers have pushed their government to consider retaliating with tariffs on imports of high-fructose corn syrup from the U.S.

U.S. producers of everything from corn to beef have warned of the risk of a broader trade dispute if a deal on sugar isn’t reached. The sugar spat comes at a sensitive time, as the U.S. prepares to kick off talks with Mexico and Canada on a new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement.