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Dairy groups urge support for WTO

nevodka/iStock/Thinkstock Dairy products including milk, cheese, butter and yogurt displayed on white wood
International statement urges maintaining, reforming and reinvigorating WTO and rejecting trade-distorting actions.

The International Dairy Foods Assn., the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council joined with their global counterparts in urging the G20 ministers meeting this week in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to prioritize maintaining, reforming and reinvigorating the World Trade Organization, which is the multilateral rules-based trading system.

The dairy groups called on the ministers to "reject trade-distorting actions, such as imposing unscientific, overly burdensome or trade-distorting nontariff regulations, unilaterally raising tariffs in ways that are not WTO compliant or providing WTO-illegal export subsidies. These actions undermine the functioning of value chains and lead to trade diversion, more volatile commodity prices and a less efficient allocation of resources with higher costs."

The dairy associations, which represent the majority of global trade in dairy products, are calling on G20 ministers to prioritize maintaining, reforming and reinvigorating the multilateral rules-based trading system.

The groups said they have come together as representatives of the dairy industries in Argentina (Centro de la Industria Lechera), Australia (Australian Dairy Industry Council), the European Union (European Dairy Assn. and Eucolait), New Zealand (Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand), the U.S. (International Dairy Foods Assn., National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Export Council) and Uruguay (Camara de la Industria Lactea del Uruguay) because of the collective importance they place on having a rules-based multilateral system that is respected and adhered to.

“We strongly agree with the G20 trade ministers statement of September 2018 that international trade is an important engine of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and development.  The multilateral trading system has supported trade and contributed to unprecedented improvement in standards of living around the globe over the last 60 years. Since agriculture was brought under the WTO framework, by the 1995 Uruguay Round agreement, dairy trade has nearly doubled as regional and global food chains have expanded to provide high-quality dairy products to an increasing number of consumers at affordable prices,” the joint statement noted.

The groups also agree with G20 trade ministers that agro-food global value chains are one of the most important means to achieve a sustainable food future, so “it is, therefore, important that all WTO members respect their WTO commitments and work collectively to strengthen and advance the WTO frameworks.”

The organizations collectively called on G20 leaders to "intensify efforts to establish a roadmap for the WTO that cements its important role into the future.”

The groups said they recognize that WTO needs to continue to adapt to changing global economic and trading circumstances to address current concerns, maintain its relevance and lay the basis for future, sustainable growth in trade, including for dairy. They said they consider the changes needed to include:

  • Reforming the dispute settlement system;
  • Improving the transparency and timeliness of subsidy notifications;
  • Clarifying the procedures for administering tariff quotas to markedly improve fill rates, and
  • Making additional improvements to address trade-distorting practices.

“The multilateral trading system is too important to our sectors -- and to achieving a sustainable food future -- to be left to one side. We call upon G20 leaders to put their collective leadership behind evolving and strengthening the WTO multilateral trading structure and architecture, including its dispute settlement system,” the dairy groups said.

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