By Chris Prentice
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Forty-five U.S. lawmakers are pressing trade representative Michael Froman to boost U.S. sugar imports as talks over a Pacific trade agreement resume this week, ratcheting up pressure on a sticking point in prior rounds.
Led by Republican Representative Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Democrat Earl Blumenauer from Oregon, the legislators are urging Froman to seek a Trans-Pacific Partnership pact with "commercially meaningful liberalization" of sugar trade, according to a letter signed by the policymakers dated Tuesday.
The push comes as leaders try to conclude talks this week on a 12-country trade agreement that has been stalled by debate over greater access of some products, including sugar.
The United States and Australia have clashed over sugar, as Australia's cane industry seeks greater access to a U.S. market protected through a complicated system of import quotas.
The U.S. sugarcane and beet industry has opposed Australia's demands for 500,000 tonnes of import quota annually. Australia has rejected a U.S. offer to permit 152,000 tonnes.
But the representatives argued in the letter that a "significant opening of access to sugar" would make the U.S. sugar market more competitive and lead to cheaper prices for shoppers and businesses.
(Reporting by Chris Prentice; Editing by Stephen R. Trousdale)