President Joe Biden announced Monday from Tokyo the official launch of his Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF, that so far includes Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Biden administration officials have repeatedly stressed that while the framework proposal, or IPEF, is expected to result in a reduction of non-tariff trade barriers, it will not include tariff-slashing market access deals that are the hallmarks of free trade agreements.
The framework, an effort to counter Chinese influence, has been welcomed by U.S. ag groups, but some organizations, such as the U.S. Dairy Export Council, continue to also press for better market access to the region.
“The framework can bring together like-minded countries to collectively put pressure on China’s unfair trade practices and human rights abuses, says Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash. “Washington ports and their workers serve as the gateway to the Indo-Pacific, bringing in semiconductors, cars, and other products from overseas while exporting quality goods like wheat and dairy. Our state has much to gain from these negotiations.”
USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden says the dairy industry has a lot to gain from IPEF, but also stresses the need for better market access.
“IPEF offers a chance for the United States to have a positive impact on the trading environment in a vital area of the world,” Harden said in a statement Monday. “If IPEF is crafted to include meaningful market access improvements and address non-tariff barriers, then these regional trends will help drive economic benefits for American farmers, dairy manufacturers and industry workers for decades to come.”
The Biden administration is highlighting plans for new rules governing digital trade under IPEF, but there is plenty of hope that ag trade will also benefit, especially with countries like Vietnam and India – nations with which the U.S. does not have free trade agreements.
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Vietnamese bans on agricultural pesticides and restrictions on grain imports make trade especially difficult, according to U.S. Wheat Associates.
U.S. dairy sees plenty of opportunity for trade expansion in Southeast Asia, but exporters often face difficulties getting dairy facilities registered to export to the region.
The European Union and countries like Australia already have trade advantages over the U.S. in the region because of free trade agreements, says National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern.
“Today marks an essential first step on what will surely be a complex journey,” Mulhern said Monday. “But to successfully compete in the Asia-Pacific region and meet their demand for dairy, we ultimately need a level playing field. That means tackling both tariff and nontariff barriers that weigh down the ability of U.S. dairy exporters to keep pace with EU and Oceania competitors that have successfully negotiated agreements across the region.”
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