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Down Go Steel Tariffs, Up Goes USMCA’s Chances

June 11, 2019

Dairy producers got a dose of much-needed good news in May when North American trading partners reached agreement to end a testy tariff dispute. The trade deal announced May 17 put an end to the Section 232 metal duties that the United States levied against Mexico and Canada last year. In return, Mexico and Canada agreed to end retaliatory tariffs against several U.S. products, including cheese and yogurt. Economists with Informa Agribusiness Consulting had estimated that Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs, left unchecked, would have cost dairy farmers nearly $1.2 billion in lost revenue by the end of 2019.

“Dairy farmers have much to celebrate, with the resumption of normal business with our largest export partner,” Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, said. Congress’s next step should be “to vote on USMCA and quickly ratify it,” he said.

Dairy quickly capitalized on the USMCA momentum, with NMPF joining with the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the International Dairy Foods Association to inform Congress in a letter sent June 10 endorsing swift USMCA approval. The next day NMPF joined with almost a thousand other food and agricultural organizations and companies, including many NMPF members, to send a unified message to the Hill urging movement on the trade agreement.

USMCA modernizes the North American Free Trade Agreement, maintains U.S. dairy sales into Mexico, expands dairy market access in Canada, and reforms many nontariff barriers to trade. Dairy sales to Mexico and Canada should grow by a total of $277 million once USMCA is fully implemented, according to U.S. government estimates.

Dairy exports to Mexico totaled $1.4 billion last year, or 80 percent of Mexico’s total imports, and are poised for further growth under the open trade conditions that USMCA solidifies. Negotiations of the trade deal were completed in November but requires congressional approval. NMPF and its partners at the U.S. Dairy Export Council have pushed for USMCA ratification through a series of Capitol Hill meetings, briefings, special events, and letters to lawmakers.