US blocks sugar imports from top Dominican producer over forced labor concerns
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US government blocked all imports of sugar from the Dominican Republic in retaliation for what it said were violations by the Caribbean country’s sugar industry of the country’s national sugar law, Reuters reported Monday.
On Saturday, the US imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum products, with US President Donald Trump’s administration saying the duties were “a direct result of the ongoing dumping activities at the Port of Hialeah in Cuba.”
The Trump administration has long been in disagreement with the European Union, the United States’ main trading partner, over the bloc’s trade practices. As part of the dispute, the EU imposed punitive tariffs on cars imported from the United States, saying Trump’s administration was undermining global trade.
US business interests in the Caribbean have been threatened by a string of trade disputes with the European Union and NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico.
“We have been in contact with the US State Department and the Commerce Department to resolve the issue,” Dominican Commerce Minister Rafael Moreno said in a statement.
The Commerce Ministry did not immediately confirm the report of the US block on sugar imports nor provide a translation of the statement the Dominican government released.
In June, the Trump administration announced a crackdown on the country’s sugar industry amid concerns that its production had fallen under President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government.
A week later, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US embassy in the Dominican Republic would suspend all new visas for new foreign tourists after a string of reports that indicated that the country was forcing workers to harvest sugarcane using forced labor.
Pompeo said the United States would impose penalties of up to 100 percent of their import value on any Dominican entity caught harvesting illegal sugar products in the country.
The Dominican Republic is the top sugar producer in Central America.
In April, the US imposed tariffs worth tens of millions of dollars on imports from Canada and the EU after Canada announced it would buy more American agricultural goods as part of a trade deal with the United States. But in light of the Dominican sugar tariff dispute, the administration could not take any action with the EU.