U.S. Dairy Industry Welcomes IPEF Launch and Taiwan Trade Proposal

NMPF trade staff spent much of June encouraging the Biden Administration’s new Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) to move forward while pushing it to go even further toward ensuring more-open markets for U.S. dairy producers.

IPEF encapsulates a regional trade agenda focused on advancing supply chain resilience, sustainability, economic growth, and competitiveness. Depending on its outcomes, IPEF’s effects on U.S. dairy exporters could range from tiny to quite notable. The collection of interested countries includes seven of the United States’ top ten dairy export markets, but the framework announced May 23 does not address tariff reductions

NMPF and USDEC have broadcasted these concerns to the administration during a Farmers for Free Trade virtual townhall, comments, and direct communications to trade negotiators. The organizations also have been leading drivers behind bipartisan Congressional engagement on the issue, supporting the work of scores of Members as they press the administration to prioritize agriculture in IPEF negotiations and outline examples of both tariff and nontariff opportunities.

An agreement that does not directly tackle tariffs might still deliver meaningful benefits for dairy, and NMPF and USDEC continue to advocate for inclusion of specific nontariff items that could help improve trade flows. These include protecting the use of common cheese names and cutting red tape by streamlining import requirements. Also, NMPF and USDEC note that tariff reductions could be possible under IPEF should the U.S. Trade Representative secure unilateral foreign tariff reductions that benefit all World Trade Organization (WTO) members, including the United States. Such a reduction would provide U.S. exporters with greater parity with competitors that have already secured comprehensive tariff agreements throughout the region.

The U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade announced June 1 faces similar hurdles. Taiwan was the 12th largest market for U.S. dairy exports last year, buying $140 million of U.S. dairy products, primarily higher-value exports such as fluid milk and cheese.

While NMPF welcomes all initiatives aimed at increasing trade, the Taiwan proposal does not contain plans to reduce tariffs. NMPF believes stronger economic ties must include additional trade opportunities for the dairy sector and will continue to press for these policies at every opportunity.

Dairy Groups Welcome IPEF, Seek Prioritization of Market Access Provisions

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) welcomed the announced launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) today and the opportunity it offers to strengthen ties with key trading partners across the Asia-Pacific region.

Exports are exceptionally important to the U.S. dairy industry. The United States exported $7.75 billion in dairy products worldwide in 2021, equivalent to approximately 17% of total U.S. milk production.

“Today marks an essential first step on what will surely be a complex journey,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “But to successfully compete in the Asia-Pacific region and meet their demand for dairy, we ultimately need a level playing field. That means tackling both tariff and nontariff barriers that weigh down the ability of U.S. dairy exporters to keep pace with EU and Oceania competitors that have successfully negotiated agreements across the region. We support USTR’s launch of IPEF and look forward to partnering with the Administration on it as talks proceed. As that commences, I urge the Biden Administration to set specific time frames for IPEF negotiations so that it can deliver meaningful results for American dairy farmers. We cannot afford another Trans-Pacific Partnership-type outcome in which we negotiate for six years only to walk away from the final result, leaving our exporters no further down the road than where we started.”

“IPEF offers a chance for the United States to have a positive impact on the trading environment in a vital area of the world,” said Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC. “The Asia-Pacific region is an important destination for U.S. dairy exports and offers impressive prospects for continued growth and expansion thanks to growing consumer demand for the type of high-quality products the U.S. produces so well. If IPEF is crafted to include meaningful market access improvements and address non-tariff barriers, then these regional trends will help drive economic benefits for American farmers, dairy manufacturers and industry workers for decades to come.”

Dozens of members of Congress from both parties have underscored to the administration the importance of securing market access gains in IPEF. On March 30, a bipartisan group of 87 House members urged the Administration to prioritize agriculture in IPEF negotiations and outlined examples of both tariff and nontariff results that should be pursued. On May 9, two dozen Senate Republicans wrote to Ambassador Tai and Secretary Vilsack to urge the inclusion of market access and enforceable commitments in IPEF.

While supporting the use of IPEF and other targeted trade tools to advance exports, USDEC and NMPF have been unyielding in their call for once again pursuing comprehensive trade agreements around the world, and especially in the Asia-Pacific region, where competitors like the EU and Oceania have been especially active.

USDEC and NMPF filed comments on the IPEF trade agreement on April 11. The filing noted, “NMPF and USDEC’s priority and strong preference is the pursuit of comprehensive trade agreements to establish lasting trade barrier reductions on both the tariff and nontariff fronts. Recognizing that the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) is not likely to be such an agreement, we nevertheless urge the Administration to seek to eliminate or reduce both tariff and nontariff barriers to U.S. dairy exports through the IPEF.”

NMPF Pursues, Protects Dairy Market Access

NMPF and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) submitted joint comments to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office on April 11 asking it to place a high priority on tariff cuts and nontariff barrier removals through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).

While the administration still hesitates to pursue comprehensive free trade agreements, the framework, which is focused on defining shared objectives around trade facilitation, standards, supply chain resiliency, sustainability, and other common interests in the Indo-Pacific region, presents a potential opportunity to take one step forward on access terms in the region. NMPF in the comments urged that the Biden Administration pursue comprehensive trade agreements to establish lasting tariff and nontariff trade barrier reductions. While acknowledging that the economic framework will not be that kind of agreement, the comments make the case that it could still reduce or eliminate barriers to trade and suggest numerous areas for potential progress.

NMPF and USDEC worked closely with Congressional offices to bolster that message through a March 30 House of Representatives letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging the administration to prioritize U.S. food and agriculture in any IPEF negotiations. The bipartisan letter, led by Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Jodey Arrington (R-TX), and signed by 85 other members of Congress, called on the administration to use the Indo-Pacific negotiations to “include efforts to reduce tariffs on U.S. agricultural exports,” to establish regulatory reforms that would benefit U.S. dairy and others in American agriculture, and more.

NMPF also is continuing to safeguard free trade in Latin America, where growing anti-import sentiment from domestic agricultural industries is contributing to a proliferation of potential new market access barriers.

Panama formally petitioned the United States in March 16 to renegotiate several of the agricultural market access provisions in the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement. In response, NMPF and USDEC, working together with the Corn Refiners Association, initiated an April 14 letter co-signed by fifteen other agricultural organizations to Ambassador Tai and Secretary Vilsack urging them to preserve the agricultural market access terms of the trade deal and ensure Panama honors its trade obligations. The letter states that modifying an already-implemented trade deal would set an “alarming precedent” and urges the administration to stay the course on FTA implementation.