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US dairy sector welcomes trans-Atlantic trade negotiations

By Mark Astley , 15-Feb-2013

US dairy sector welcomes trans-Atlantic trade negotiations

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations could lead to the removal of barriers that have until now prevented US dairy manufacturers making “headway” in the European Union (EU), US dairy sector representatives have claimed.

US President Barack Obama, European Commission (EC) President José Manuel Barroso, and European Council President Herman Von Rompuy revealed in a joint statement earlier this week that the US and EU had agreed to launch negotiations to establish a trade and investment deal.

According to the statement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will focus on the removal of tariffs, open investment markets, and “aligning rules and technical product standards” that currently hinder trade between the US and the 27 EU Member States.

“A high-standard Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would advance trade and investment liberalisation and address regulatory and other non-tariff barriers,” said the EU-US joint statement.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) have welcomed the announcement.

“Considerable” dairy export potential

According to NMPF president and CEO Jerry Kozak the EU presents a “considerable” export opportunity for the US dairy sector.

“NMPF believes that considerable potential exists for greater US dairy exports to the EU, if the Transatlantic agreement effectively tackles not only market access issues but also the many non-tariff barriers that have made it challenging for the United States to make more headway into the European dairy market,” said NMPF president and CEO, Jerry Kozak.

Dairy exports from the US into the EU are currently hindered by “regulatory hurdles” and significant tariffs, USDEC president Tom Suber added.

“The US dairy industry is now a major exporter globally. Despite this fact and the large size of the European dairy market, US dairy exports to the EU have lagged and totalled only $88m last year,” he said.

“This is not because we can’t compete there, but because of the many tariff and regulatory hurdles facing out exporters seeking to enter the EU.”

“We believe the transatlantic agreement can do a lot to drive more reciprocal dairy trade between the United States and EU,” said Suber.

Geographical indications “cannot be accepted”

Suber added that discussions must be held with the aim of “up-rooting” EU geographical indications (GI).

The EU runs three GI schemes – protected designation of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI), and traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG). These schemes “promote and protect the names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs.”

Grana Padano, Gruyere, and Gorgonzola cheeses are among hundreds of dairy products protected by these schemes.

“US cheese-makers are already blocked from selling American-made Parmesan and Feta to the EU and are facing a proliferation of restrictions against our use of these terms and others in more and more markets around the world,” said Suber.

“Granting a monopoly to one group of producers for the use of a generic name is a barrier to competition and cannot be accepted any longer by the United States – either in third-party markets or in the EU itself.”

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