Rising power, US targets Nicaraguan sugar imports | Government and politics


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has removed Nicaragua from the list of countries that can ship sugar to the United States at low import tax rates as the United States steps up economic pressure on the country. authoritarian government of President Daniel Ortega.

The United States distributes sugar import quotas by country each year and imposes relatively modest levies on shipments that arrive below the threshold.

The Office of the US Trade Representative released a list late Wednesday allocating quotas to 39 countries, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, for just over 1.1 million metric tonnes of raw cane sugar. The quotas cover the 2023 budget year, which begins on October 1. Nicaragua, which obtained a quota of more than 22,000 metric tons for the 2022 fiscal year, was excluded from the 2023 list.

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Last year, Nicaragua exported $83.5 million worth of sugar to the United States, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

The administration has considered ways to ratchet up pressure on the Nicaraguan government, which last year staged what the United States viewed as daily protests against anti-government activists ahead of fall elections. His likely opponents shut out of the contest, Ortega easily won a fourth straight term. The United States also accuses the Ortega government of corruption and considers that the country close relations with Russia as a threat to regional security.

Mario Amador, president of the National Commission of Sugar Producers of Nicaragua, said he was taken aback by the decision and called it unfortunate. He said neither the Nicaraguan nor US governments gave him advance notice. Amador said he would try to speak with officials from the US Embassy in Managua and the Nicaraguan Ministry of Industry and Commerce when he returns from a business trip to Mexico.

“It’s a matter of government pressures that undoubtedly affects hundreds of people,” Amador said.

He said Washington’s decision would affect four sugar mills, some 800 growers and their families, as well as investors from Guatemala, Colombia, Spain, the United States and Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan sugar sector produces nearly 2 million tons annually, more than half of which is exported. The approximately $200 million it generates represents about 4% of Nicaragua’s gross national product and directly and indirectly employs some 150,000 people, according to the sugar commission.

The commission said this sugar should be diverted to other less lucrative markets.

Selser reported from Mexico.

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