Aug. 20, 2013 –
With negotiators meeting again this week on a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade
agreement, a bipartisan group of 74 Members of Congress is urging the Obama
Administration to conclude an agreement that reduces obstacles to U.S. dairy
Their letter preceded this week’s visit by U.S. Trade Representative
Michael Froman to Japan
this week to huddling with his counterparts about winding up a TPP agreement by the end of the year. His visit
coincides with the 19th round of talks aimed at a new agreement.
TPP has had the
attention of the U.S.
dairy industry for the past two years, first because of concern that it might
allow New Zealand
dairy products greater access to the U.S. markets but more recently from
hope that it could result in more open markets in Canada and Japan.
The House members, representatives of both parties and
mostly milk-producing districts, asked Froman and Secretary of Agriculture Tom
Vilsack to push for “a positive outcome for the U.S. dairy industry.” It zeroes in
on the “significant market access issues with Canada, Japan, and New Zealand”
and the importance of more enforceable sanitary and phytosanitary rules.
Discussions with Canada should aim for removing
tariffs and preventing non-tariff barriers from being employed to negate market
access for U.S.
dairy products, said the letter, organized by Reps. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., and
Peter Welch, D-Vt. “In the past, the U.S. has won tariff concessions from
Canada only to see those gains impeded through other means, a troubling trend
that has only grown in recent years.” Addition of Japan to TPP
offers “another meaningful opportunity to secure additional exports of U.S. dairy
products,” they said. While Japan
already is the fifth largest U.S.
dairy export market with $284 million in imports from the U.S. last year,
the industry believes that could increase sharply if tariffs and regulatory
barriers were reduced.
One of the industry’s major concerns relates to Fonterra’s
near monopoly position in New
Zealand’s dairy exports. The letter suggests
that New Zealand’s
government take steps to reform policies that include “special legislation to
permit exorbitant market concentration by one company and exclusive access for
that same company to the country’s export licenses that lasted for several
years.” These policies, it said, have concentrated some 90 percent of New Zealand’s
milk supply in Fonterra, “which in turn dominates over one third of global
More broadly, the letter appeals to U.S.
negotiators to seek limits on the use of sanitary and phytosanitary regulations
to block food imports. Exporting country officials have a litany of complaints
about countries using SPS rules without a scientific basis to protect their
Froman’s personal presence around the borders of the talks
illustrates the importance – as well as the difficulty – of concluding on schedule
what has been called an “ambitious” and a “21st Century” agreement that would
build on the gains made by trade agreements since the end of World War II. He
and other trade ministers “will discuss key outstanding issues and chart a
course for the expeditious conclusion of a TPP
agreement,” his office said last week. “TPP
leaders have directed trade ministers and negotiators to seek to complete an
agreement this year.”
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