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NMPF President Says U.S. Must Ensure Other Countries Live up to Terms of Trade Deals

March 4, 2016

The U.S. government must make other countries live up to their commitments to open their markets once free trade agreements are negotiated, NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern told a Senate hearing Thursday that focused on the lessons from how past trade agreements have been implemented.

Even as Congress begins the early stages of review of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the U.S. is still negotiating the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe, Mulhern pointed to examples of implementation challenges from previous free trade agreements. The value of the completed trade pacts, such as NAFTA, “depends greatly on the ability of the U.S. to make other countries live up to their commitments” when the agreements are enforced.

Canada is an example of this, as it continues to erect impediments – such as changing its cheese standards – to block dairy imports from the U.S. If this pattern continues, “new trade commitments with the country will be difficult to negotiate,” he continued. Mulhern said that the best window of opportunity for influencing how countries implement their free-trade obligations is the period before congressional approval of an agreement. 

“Action during this window not only ensures that Congress has a clear understanding of how the agreement is intended to work in practice, but it utilizes the strongest point of leverage the U.S. possesses: whether or not we will decide to put in place a strengthening of our trade ties with the FTA partner,” he said.

This becomes especially important as the TPP awaits congressional approval, and the TTIP negotiations continue. Mulhern said he does not believe TTIP is on the right track for a successful conclusion. One issue is that 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.

“We will have to work hard not only to enforce the letter of that agreement, but also to ensure that its intention to help promote robust competition is not undermined as a result of ongoing pressure from the EU,” Mulhern said.

Positive results in this area are achievable, he continued. Just the day before his testimony on March 3rd, the dairy industry thanked the U.S. government for its extensive work aimed at securing clarifications regarding the right to use several generic cheese names in exports to Honduras.