NMPF Works to Preserve Market Access in Colombia

NMPF Executive Vice President for Policy Development and Strategy Jaime Castaneda testified in a hearing convened Aug. 12 by the Colombian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism, calling on the Colombian government to terminate its safeguard investigation on imports of U.S. milk powder.

The Colombian government began the investigation in June to determine whether imports of U.S. milk powders were injuring its domestic industry, a move that appears to be politically driven. NMPF staff worked closely with USDEC’s regulatory team and South American office, as well as with U.S. exporters, to submit extensive data and information to Colombia to counter the Colombian livestock sector’s push to impose tariffs on U.S. milk powder exports.

Castaneda in his testimony highlighted that any imposed safeguard would create inefficiencies in the Colombian dairy processing sector and a market deficit of certain dairy products in Colombia, without helping its dairy producers. Castaneda called the safeguard request by Colombia’s cattle breeders purely political with no legal or factual basis.

“The milk powder import safeguards petition is a political action pursued in the months leading up to a presidential campaign at the expense of Colombia’s poorest and import-dependent small and medium-sized industries; it has no economic or commercial merit,” Castaneda said in his testimony. “By imposing a political safeguard, the Colombian government would create a serious conflict between Colombia and the United States, impacting Colombian exports of other products to the U.S.”

Castaneda encouraged the U.S. and Columbia to work together to expand overall milk consumption, benefiting farmers in both nations.

NMPF Works to Prevent Barriers in Colombia

NMPF and USDEC in July steadily worked to prevent potential trade barriers in trade with Colombia, working with governments in both countries to keep commerce open.

The Colombian Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism formally announced on June 21 the launch of an investigation into imports of U.S. milk powder to determine whether U.S. product has negatively impacted Colombia’s local industry.

Sparked by a vocal domestic industry, the Colombian government’s investigation appears to be a politically driven attempt to impose additional tariffs under a safeguard mechanism. NMPF and USDEC’s trade policy team, working with USDEC regulatory staff, met with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in early July to urge the U.S. government to engage the Colombian government in opposition to any potential safeguard. NMPF and USDEC have also reached out to seek the support of Colombian buyers in opposition to any safeguard.

While safeguards are allowed to be imposed under the U.S.-Colombia bilateral trade agreement if a domestic industry is “injured” from increased imports, the Colombian government must follow specific procedures in doing so. NMPF and USDEC, along with several USDEC members, submitted official comments and relevant data to the Colombian government on July 12. The next step is to await the findings and ruling on the investigation.