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Sugar trade deal not so sweet

Sugar is shaping up as the most controversial commodity in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

杭州桑拿

As well as boosting trade with the US, the government says the deal will open up markets in Vietnam, Malaysia, Chile and Canada and usher in a new era of opportunity across the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.

Service providers, miners and manufacturers will benefit from slashed tariffs, while farmers will reap an extra $1 billion from cuts to export levies on beef, dairy, wine, rice, horticulture and seafood in a number of markets.

The deal signed in the US on Monday will see tariffs for beef cut by another nine per cent and, for the first time in decades, rice growers will be able to send more product to Japan.

But for Australian canegrowers, the deal isn’t so sweet.

While access to the US market will double, the outcome is well below what the cane growers had sought.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb conceded he couldn’t secure the increase he wanted, prompting lobby group Canegrowers to describe the $16 million boost as bittersweet.

Government MP George Christensen said he was prepared to cross the floor of the House of Representatives to vote against the government.

Despite welcoming the freshly-inked 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership as a win for agriculture, the Nationals backbencher says the deal is only “OK” for sugar.

“Across the sugar industry this deal has been met with mixed emotions and I feel likewise,” he said in a statement.

“I will be reserving my right to cross the floor on the deal, depending on the outcome of other factors plaguing the sugar industry.”

Unions are also wary.

The ACTU fears there could be many harmful elements and believes there’s a great probability the deal isn’t balanced and doesn’t protect Australian jobs.

“You have to wonder, if it’s such a good deal, why are the details hidden,” president Ged Kearney said.

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