Trump Is About to Mess with Sugar

This might be the last straw.

During his campaign Donald Trump was heavy on protectionist trade policy rhetoric, threatening to slap tariffs on imports of foreign goods to protect U.S. manufacturers from having to compete on price with more affordable foreign products.

Well now U.S. trade officials are locked in a battle with Mexican officials over the threat of an 80 percent tariff on Mexican sugar imports to the United States.

But who’s Trump protecting anyways?

While cheaper foreign goods like sugar might cut into the profits of well-connected agricultural corporations that grow sugar, they also lower costs for consumers: anyone who buys sugar or products with sugar in it.

Such a policy doesn’t protect the United States, it simply takes money out of your pocket and out of the pocket of every person at the check out line in the grocery store and puts it in the bank account of a well-represented corporate sugar farm and its shareholders.

Let’s get real, this is a policy that protects the 1% and takes from the rest of us.

How is it any of Donald Trump’s business if you know this cool farmer in Mexico and he’d be happy to sell you some sugar at a price you both agree to that is lower than the jacked up, protected price of the domestic sugar industry?

How is it right for the government to make that illegal with an 80% import tariff?

Even the conservative Heritage Foundation points out that not only is this a transfer of money from consumers to an industry that’s good at lobbying, it has a net negative economic impact on the entire country as a whole:

“U.S. sugar policy costs taxpayers millions of dimes per year. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the sugar program imposes a $49 million net cost on the economy.[9] According to a study commissioned by the Sweetener Users Association, the program costs consumers $2.9 billion to $3.5 billion.[10] According to a study by the American Enterprise Institute, the program costs consumers $2.4 billion per year, with a net economic cost of $1 billion per year.”

It also restricts the amount of sugar in the U.S. economy, keeping the supply of sugar artificially low, which is why the biggest buyers of sweeteners in the United States- like soda and chocolate companies- hardly use real sugar in their products anymore, opting instead for the lower cost high fructose corn syrup.

So to protect sugar growers in red states from having to charge a fair price to U.S. sugar consumers, the federal government and corporate interests are likely contributing to obesity as well.

And if it matters to you at all, a tariff will hurt farmers struggling to make a living in developing countries. Such a drastic tax on imported sugar will disrupt the livelihood of farmers in sugar cane growing regions like the central Mexican town of Atencingo.

Sugar cane day laborers earn roughly 600 pesos ($32) a day, and their families are depending on that income.