The leaders of 12 countries, including the U.S., are expected to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement early next month, but debate continues at home about the risks and rewards of the trade pact.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), as required by law, recently held hearings on the TPP and will deliver its findings to Congress and the White House later this year.
U.S. Dairy Export Council President Tom Suber testified at the hearings on behalf of the dairy industry, which remains concerned about the trade deal. Both the USDEC and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) sent detailed comments to the commission last year.
“The deal falls short in providing the degree of market access we had been seeking, but it also avoids a disproportionate opening of the U.S. market to dairy exporters,” Suber said during the hearings. “While we don’t give the pact a 'failing grade’ until we have come to a final analysis of its net benefits, we felt it was important to participate in USITC’s assessment and identify points we believe the agency should consider in its economic analysis.”
Dairy groups are concerned with portions of the agreement that deal with sanitary and phytosanitary rules and geographical indication provisions. According to National Milk Producers Federation, TPP is the first U.S. trade agreement to include rules on sanitary and phytosanitary measures that are beyond those contained in the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement.
“The strengthened (sanitary and phytosanitary) commitments address the escalating threat that unwarranted and sudden (sanitary and phytosanitary) measures are posing to U.S. agricultural exports around the world,” Suber said. “Nearly all the ‘WTO-plus’ provisions are enforceable through the TPP’s settlement mechanism.”
The two dairy groups--NMPF and USDEC--are also concerned about the following issues in the trade deal:
- U.S. exports to Mexico and Peru.
- U.S. tariff elimination on milk powders and specific cheese from Australia and New Zealand.
- Exports from Canada to the U.S.
- Regulatory barriers.
- Flexibility created by the agreement’s rules of origin.
President Obama is expected to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement Feb. 4 in New Zealand, along with the leaders of other participating nations. Before it can take effect though, Congress must ratify the deal and pass any necessary legislation; other countries must do the same through their own governing bodies.
The U.S. trade commission's report is due May 18.