“The importance of maintaining and expanding export markets is crucial to support milk prices and dairy farm revenues,” the cooperative said in comments it submitted Monday to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), which is seeking stakeholder input for an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
Edge, which has members throughout the Upper Midwest, said the Indo-Pacific Region is critically important. The coop pointed to Southeast Asia, in particular, as one of the largest destinations for US dairy products, accounting for nearly $1.4bn worth of dairy exports last year, an increase of 11% from 2020. Japan and South Korea remain leading US markets, including among the top five destinations for cheese, which the majority of Edge’s members produce.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai has said the new economic framework will not follow the traditional approach of free trade agreements. Edge said while it welcomes new approaches, the US should still consider the importance of certain traditional elements, particularly market access provisions.
“Market access often provides some of the most tangible benefits for obtaining the commitments USTR desires from other negotiating partners,” the coop wrote.
“Greater market access for US dairy exports means more to the industry now than ever. Exports are essential for balance of the US milk supply and demand, growth of the industry and, at the end of the day, the dairy farmers’ milk checks. With growing global demand for dairy products, notably across the Indo-Pacific Region, it is only reasonable that the US seek to tackle the lowest barrier to entry, market access.”
Edge also urged support for the overarching efforts of the framework, particularly as it seeks to build on global rules-based trading efforts, as well as proposing a comprehensive approach that eliminates tariff and non-tariff barriers.
The coop said legally-binding and enforceable agreements are also needed, and a formal legislative approval process to help ensure this.
It said having sufficient critical mass of participating countries to shape regional rules and norms, as well as incentives to encourage other countries to join over time, was also important, as is protecting the right to use commonly-used names for cheeses and other foods.
Edge said before setting new environmental sustainability standards, assessing existing industry-supported initiatives and their consistency with national and global objectives was also necessary.
President Biden announced plans for a US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) in October, which will be the administration’s first major trade and economic initiative in the region. Some members of Congress, several business associations, and US allies such as Australia and Japan, have called for a more active US trade policy in the Indo-Pacific, including US leadership in regional trade agreements.
The IPEF will focus on four pillars: trade facilitation, supply chain resilience, infrastructure and decarbonization, and taxation and anti-corruption. Agreements will be made with different sets of countries for each pillar, and those seeking trade facilitation would be expected to sign on to all four.
The framework could be launched in May.