Raw cane sugar, refined sugar, sugar
syrups, and specialty sugars enter the United States primarily under two
tariff-rate quotas (TRQs), which are provided for in Chapter 17 of the
Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS). Under these two TRQs, U.S. importers pay
either a nominal or zero duty. Sugars that receive preferential tariff
treatment under free trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA), the Central American/Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement
(CAFTA/DR), the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act, the Andean Trade
Preference Act, or the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences enter at a zero
duty. The HTS permits the importation of sugars outside these TRQs, but at
considerably higher duty rates. The HTS may be found on the U.S. International
Trade Commission’s Web site at
Raw and Refined Sugars for Domestic
Chapter 17 of the HTS (Additional U.S.
Note 5) establishes a minimum TRQ for raw cane sugar of 1,117,195 metric tons
and a minimum TRQ for refined sugar (also termed “other sugars, syrups, and
molasses”) of 22,000 metric tons. Additional U.S. Note 5 also authorizes the
establishment of higher TRQ amounts whenever the Secretary of Agriculture
"believes that domestic supplies of sugars may be inadequate to meet domestic
demand at reasonable prices." The Secretary usually establishes TRQs for raw
and refined sugars in August or September for the upcoming U.S. fiscal year
beginning each October 1. Raw sugar, as defined by HTS Chapter 17 Subheading
Note 1, is a sugar with a sucrose content by weight, in a dry state,
corresponding to a reading of less than 99.5 degrees on a polarimeter.
The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR)
allocates the raw cane sugar TRQ among supplying countries, currently using a
formula based on their share of exports to the United States between 1975 and
1981. Anyone may import raw cane sugar at the TRQ duty rate from any of these
supplying countries as long as the sugar is accompanied by a "Certificate of
Quota Eligibility." These certificates are issued by the U.S. Department of
Agriculture and validated by the exporting countries’ certifying authorities.
Rules governing the importation of raw cane sugar under the TRQ are found in
Title 15 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 2011, Subpart A.
In recent years the refined sugar TRQ has
been allocated by USTR to Canada, Mexico, a portion which is open to all
importers on a first-come, first-served or “global” basis, and a portion for
Specialty sugars include organic sugar,
brown slab sugar, pearl sugar, vanilla sugar, rock candy, fondant, caster sugar,
golden syrup, golden granulated sugar, cake decorations, and sugar cubes. U.S.
Customs and Border Protection first fills the global allocation of the refined
sugar TRQ, before opening the portion of the refined sugar TRQ reserved for
specialty sugars. The specialty sugar portion is filled on a first-come,
first-served basis. Imports of specialty sugar require a certificate issued by
the Foreign Agricultural Service. Rules governing the importation of specialty
sugar are found in Title 15 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 2011,
Raw Sugar for Refining, Re-Export, and
Imported raw cane sugar may replace sugar
that has been exported as either refined sugar or as an ingredient in a
sugar-containing product, or used in the production of polyhydric alcohol, under
the U.S. Refined Sugar Re-Export Program (authorized by HTS Chapter 17
Additional U.S. Note 6). If this raw sugar originates in a country benefiting
from special trade preferences, it enters at a zero duty, otherwise it enters at
a nominal duty. Participants in the program must be licensed by the Secretary.
After a licensed refiner has imported and refined the raw sugar, there are
three options for the refined sugar: (1) it may be transferred to a company
licensed under the Sugar-Containing Products Re-Export Program; (2) it may be
transferred to a company licensed under the Polyhydric Alcohol Program; or (3)
it may be exported directly. Rules governing these programs are found in Title 7
of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1530.
Sugar-Containing Product Imports
There are three tariff-rate quotas (TRQs)
of sugar-containing products identified in HTS Chapter 17, listed in Additional
U.S. Notes 7, 8, and 9. Note 8 establishes a TRQ of 64,709 metric tons for
products containing more than 10 percent by dry weight of sugar. All
products from Mexico, and cocoa powders, blended sugar syrups, and bulk
ingredients containing more than 65-percent sugar from other exporting countries
are excluded from the TRQ. It should be noted that dry drink mixes, such as
sweetened iced tea mix, containing more than 65-percent sugar and imported in
bulk are allowed entry under this TRQ. In addition to these mixes, the Note 8
TRQ includes various other items identified under Chapters 17, 18, 19, and 21 of
the HTS, such as candy and chocolate. USTR currently allocates 59,250 metric
tons (92 percent) of the Note 8 TRQ to products from Canada, which enter the
United States duty free. The balance, 5,459 metric tons, may be imported from
any supplier, other than Mexico, on a first-come, first-served basis. The
concessional rate of duty depends on the product and the country of origin.
Canada is not eligible to ship products under the global portion of this Note 8
The TRQ under HTS Chapter 17 Note 7 is for
certain products containing over 65 percent sugar, and the TRQ under Note
9 is for certain blended syrups. The TRQ quantity eligible for low-duty
entry under both Note 7 and Note 9 is zero.
Chapter 18 of the HTS (Additional U.S.
Note 1) establishes a TRQ of 2,313 metric tons for cocoa powders
containing more than 10 percent by dry weight of sugar. All products from Mexico
and those imported in bulk containing more than 65-percent sugar are excluded
from the TRQ. The concessional rate of duty depends on the product and the
country of origin.
Chapter 19 of the HTS (Additional U.S.
Note 3) establishes a TRQ of 10 percent on 5,398 metric tons of bakery mixes
and doughs containing more than 10 percent by dry weight of sugar. All
products from Mexico and those imported in bulk containing more than 65-percent
sugar are excluded from the TRQ. Products from Canada and developing countries
benefiting from special trade preferences enter duty free under the TRQ.
Chapter 21 of the HTS (Additional U.S.
Note 4) establishes a TRQ of 7.5 percent duty on 689 metric tons of mixed
condiments and seasonings containing more than 10 percent by dry weight of
sugar. Products from Mexico are excluded from this TRQ. Products from Canada and
developing countries benefiting from special trade preferences enter duty free
under the TRQ.
Since Jan. 1, 2003, U.S. tariffs on all
sugar-containing product imports from Mexico have been zero under the terms of
the NAFTA. Tariffs on raw and refined sugar from Mexico decline each year under
NAFTA, and are scheduled to reach zero on Jan. 1, 2008.
For more information, contact:
Elizabeth Berry, Director
Import Policies and Export Reporting Division
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250-1021
Tel: (202) 720-0638
Fax: (202) 720-0876
General information about FAS programs,
resources, and services is available on the Internet at the FAS home page: