Letters to MoneyWeek: In defence of sugar sanctions

Your story, “Trump’s Battle with the Sultans of Sugar” (MoneyWeek 848), is not only rife with inaccuracies, it is completely void of any understanding of how trade pacts between nations work.

First, and most basic, the Fanjul family is of Spanish descent. The Lebanese family you clumsily describe is the highly respected and successful “Franjul family” not the “Fanjul family”.

Next, human rights atrocities in Cuba are well documented. It is disgraceful that you have characterised a family fleeing from an oppressive communist dictatorship as being “kicked out”. 
I highly doubt, in present times, you would so callously describe Syrian refugees as being “kicked out” of their country.

Lastly, like any other legally binding agreement, trade pacts have a set of laws that govern participating countries. In this case, the International Trade Commission unanimously ruled that Mexico violated US trade laws. This is not a negotiation of a trade deal. The “negotiations” between the US and Mexico concern the sanctions to be put in place against Mexico for violating US trade law. Without these settlement negotiations, duties of 80% would be imposed, which would result in effectively eliminating all Mexican sugar from the US market.

It is a fact that the illegal actions taken by the Mexican government put 140,000 jobs in the US at risk. Throughout this entire process, the US sugar industry has merely asked Secretary Wilbur Ross to enforce US laws that protect American workers. American workers are fortunate to have a president and an administration who will stand up to protect their jobs.

J. Pepe Fanjul

While MoneyWeek’s usual policy is to publish letters anonymously, we are publishing this letter under the author’s name, since it would make less sense without this context.

We have amended the online version of our article to remove the reference to the Fanjul family being of Lebanese ancestry. We regret the error. However, we disagree with your complaint concerning our description of how the Fanjul family were forced to flee Cuba. The term “kicked out” is in no way perjorative and serves to reinforce the violence of the revolution and why it was necessary to leave.

Finally, we would note that there are usually two sides to any trade dispute. The gains that the US sugar industry enjoys through the existing laws that protect it from imports from Mexico must be set against other factors, such as higher costs for food producers and for consumers. We note that the dispute has now been resolved with an agreement favourable to the US sugar industry that is likely to lead to higher prices for imports.

Blame politicians, not pensioners

I always love your editor’s letter, but must take you to task on your comments about pensioners not giving up any of their benefits (MoneyWeek 850). Away from the metropolitan bubble, full of pressure groups, I can tell you that real people on the streets – ie, pensioners – are quite prepared to accept cuts in their current packages. At the very least, the fuel benefit should be taxable, and I personally don’t see why pensioners shouldn’t contribute a national insurance (NI) payment, given the tremendous cost of keeping us old fogies going!

Yes, I know that our state pension is pathetically low compared with most EU countries – my continental friends cannot believe the UK pension figure – but that is due to our fourth-division politicians  lacking the courage and intelligence to promote real saving opportunities for pensions, coupled with a frighteningly financially illiterate electorate.

JH

We certainly have some scepticism about whether a majority of pensioners – or any interest group – will ultimately be keen to give up some of their benefits when forced to choose to do so (as opposed to being asked whether they’d consider it). However, we agree with your point that the quality of our politicians and public debate is a substantial obstacle to implementing the changes that need to be made.

As we saw with the farce over the Conservatives’ social-care policy during the last election campaign, no party is willing to set out politically unpalatable measures and to defend them in the face of the inevitable backlash. Instead, they retreat at the first sign of trouble (and, in that case, preposterously even attempt to deny that they are backpedalling).

We badly need all the major parties to acknowledge the problems that we face, to set out coherent plans for dealing with them, to explain these to the electorate and – where these plans differ – allow us to decide which solution we prefer. They must treat the voters as adults who have a stake in the future of this country, rather than children who need to be soothed, cajoled and bribed into following their parents’ wishes. Sadly, there is little sign of this happening.

The risks of account aggregators

Your article “Should you trust account aggregators?” (MoneyWeek 852) is highly appropriate. Any software that accesses a bank account with a user-supplied login ID and password has access to the user’s transactions and can sell that data to any third party without the user’s knowledge or consent.

This is serious enough when dealing with individual users. For a company this could potentially expose confidential business intelligence to competitors.

I do not believe this is properly understood by the accounting profession who advise their clients on which accounting software to use. I hope you will continue to raise awareness of this exposure and hopefully will draw the accountancy profession and the Financial Conduct Authority into the dialogue.

SB

Yes, we agree that the potential risks surrounding these services are poorly understood. A typical user is in no position to evaluate the security measures that the providers employ, so greater scrutiny seems desirable.

Writing to MoneyWeek

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