“The importance of maintaining and expanding export markets is crucial to sustaining milk prices and dairy farm incomes,”The cooperative said in comments it submitted on Monday to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), which seeks input from stakeholders for an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
Edge, which has members throughout the Upper Midwest, said the Indo-Pacific region is critically important. The cooperative named Southeast Asia, in particular, as one of the top destinations for U.S. dairy products, accounting for nearly $1.4 billion in dairy exports last year, an increase of 11 % compared to 2020. Japan and South Korea remain the main US markets, among the top five destinations for cheese, produced by the majority of Edge members.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the new economic framework will not follow the traditional approach of free trade agreements. Edge said that while it welcomes new approaches, the United States should always consider the importance of certain traditional elements, particularly market access provisions.
“Market access often provides some of the most tangible benefits to securing the commitments desired by the USTR from other negotiating partners,”wrote the cooperative.
“Better market access for US dairy exports means more to the industry than ever. Exports are critical to the balance of U.S. milk supply and demand, industry growth, and ultimately dairy farmers’ milk checks. With growing global demand for dairy products, especially in the Indo-Pacific region, it makes perfect sense for the United States to seek to tackle the lowest barrier to entry, market access.
Edge also urged support for the framework’s global efforts, particularly as it seeks to build on rules-based global trade efforts, as well as offering a comprehensive approach that eliminates tariff and non-tariff barriers. .
The co-op said legally binding and enforceable agreements are also needed, along with a formal legislative approval process to help ensure this.
He said it was also important to have a sufficient critical mass of participating countries to shape regional rules and standards, as well as incentives to encourage other countries to join over time, as was the protection of the right to use commonly used names for cheeses and other foods.
Edge said that before setting new standards for environmental sustainability, it was also necessary to assess existing industry-supported initiatives and their consistency with national and global goals.
President Biden announced plans in October for a U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which will be the administration’s first major trade and economic initiative in the region. Some members of Congress, several trade 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 should adhere to all four.
The framework could launch in May.