National Milk Producers Federation told members of a Senate panel the value of a trade agreement is formed not in the negotiations, but in the enforcement of the treaty. Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF, told the Senate Finance committee Thursday that trade is critically important to America’s dairy industry with the implementation of the Uruguay Round and numerous other free trade agreements since 1994. And while exports are growing we must continue to work to ensure the terms of the agreements are not undermined.
Mulhern offer access to the Canadian dairy market through the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Uruguay Round as an example. Canada continues to block dairy imports, specifically restricting certain dairy inputs in cheese-making.
“If Canada is allowed to continue with this pattern of eroding existing U.S. dairy access, it is difficult to see how new trade commitments with them will benefit our dairy industry,” Mulhern said.
Similar issues have arisen with South Korea, he noted, but the U.S. government took swift action to resolve the problems.
Mulhern urged action, saying the best time to act is before congressional approval of an agreement.
“This becomes especially important now that the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have concluded, and consideration in Congress will at some point begin. It is also important given that our attention is now turning to intensifying the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations with the European Union.”
“At this stage, given our past experiences, we do not believe TTIP is currently on the right track,” Mulhern said. In addition to the dairy regulatory challenges, another very troubling issue in those negotiations is the EU’s geographical indications strategy, where the EU is seeking to restrict the use of common food names just for European food producers, both in the U.S. and in other nations to which the EU exports food.
“It is essential that we protect our trade rights from the onslaught of EU efforts to bully our trading partners into blocking imports of products from countries that allow the use of product names the EU wishes to reserve for itself through overly broad GI restrictions. This market eroding pattern began in Korea and soon spread to our Latin American FTA partners before impacting others around the world as well,” he said.