Canadian engagement needed on dairy market access

Representatives lead charge in asking Canada to allow for open dairy markets in TPP talks.

As the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement discussions come to a close, a bipartisan group of House members are urging Canada to finally commit to open its markets to more dairy imports.

A bipartisan letter led by Reps. Reid Ribble (R., Wisc.), Ron Kind (D., Wisc.), David Valadao (R., Calif.) and Suzan DelBene (D., Wash.) and signed by Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.) and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Mike Conaway (R., Texas), chairman of the Agriculture Committee, and Pat Tiberi (R., Ohio), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee’s Trade Subcommittee, urged Canadian ambassador to the United States Gary Albert Doer to engage and commit to "significant and commercially meaningful market access for all remaining agricultural products," including dairy.

The House members noted that dairy market access is among the final issues to be resolved in the negotiations in the TPP.  “It is our understanding that Canada has long been unwilling to seriously engage in market access discussions regarding dairy, despite its commitment upon joining TPP to adhere to its high standards,” the House members wrote.

Creating meaningful export opportunities into the Canadian market is one of the three critical dairy market access issues remaining in TPP. Market access discussions with Japan on core dairy commodities also remain outstanding and need to be addressed. Finally, the ultimate agreement must result in a truly balanced dairy outcome that results in real net trade benefits for U.S. dairy exports into Japan and Canada in comparison with new dairy access into the U.S. for New Zealand, the representatives stated.

Ribble said more open agricultural markets are part of the price for entry into the TPP agreements and “gaining access to the Canadian market is crucial to our ability to win a balanced outcome for dairy,” he said.

Canada currently has supply management policy for its dairy, poultry and egg farmers which it has had in place for the last 50 years. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) did not make any changes to these sectors and many members have said TPP offers the opportunity to do what NAFTA didn’t in accessing those markets.

Connie Tipton, International Dairy Foods Assn. president and chief executive officer, said, "Dairy was left out of both the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement; we are not willing to support another agreement that doesn't include significant access to Canada's dairy market."

“Our members had hoped that TPP would eliminate all dairy tariffs in the region; that now appears unlikely,” added U.S. Dairy Export Council president Tom Suber. “Despite this, we see the prospect for ample market access gains – particularly into Japan and Canada. We hope to support a final agreement that ensures the United States gains at least as much increased dairy market access into those markets for major dairy commodities as it grants to our largest competitor [New Zealand] in this agreement. Our industry is willing to do its part; Canada needs to do so as well if it wants to be part of TPP.”

The House members wrote, “It is critical that Canada finally commit to finishing the work left undone in our prior agreements and commit to significant and commercially meaningful market access for all remaining agricultural products. The final market access package with Canada on dairy in TPP will have a significant impact on how Congress views the final agreement if Canada remains a member.” 

A statement from the Dairy Farmers of Canada said they support continued supply managed sectors and denied that this model is viewed as “protectionist.” A joint statement from the dairy, poultry and egg farmers said they “support the Canadian Government trade policy of expanding market access, improving trade rules and preserving supply management.”

However, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Assn. has continually claimed the importance of Canada coming to the table in the initial round of TPP talks.

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