Scores of US dairy players have threatened to withdraw their support for the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement if Japan and Canada refuse to open up their markets to American dairy products.
In a letter addressed to US Trade Representative Michael Froman and US Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack , 39 dairies - all members of either the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the US Dairy Export Council (USDEC) - said they will retract their backing for the trade talks if Japan and Canada "refuse to follow through on pledges to provide comprehensive market access for US dairy products."
TPP is a free trade agreement currently being negotiated by 12 countries that border the Pacific Ocean - Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, the United States, Canada and Japan.
The ultimate aim of the talks, which began in 2011, is to improve simplify trade between the participants and drive growth.
Three years since talks opened, the US dairy coalition, which includes the likes of Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), Schreiber Foods, Land O'Lakes, Davisco Foods, Glanbia Foods, and HP Hood, have voiced concerns “that Japan, as well as Canada, continues to strongly resist living up to the ambitious trade goals it obligated itself to undertake upon joining TPP negotiations."
“It remains our hope that TPP negotiations with Japan and Canada can be concluded in a manner that will allow for strong support across our industry," said the letter. "However, our support for TPP is not unconditional.”
“...should Japan and Canada not commit to minimum standards and basic market-based principles as many other TPP countries have done, we would need to re-examine our support for TPP.”
In a statement published alongside the letter, USDEC president Tom Suber branded it "entirely unacceptable to have such sizable, sophisticated economies refusing to undertake the necessary openness they they have agreed upon entering TPP."
NMPF president and CEO Jim Mulhern added that its members want "to see very strong outcomes on market access" with Canada and Japan, but that for its it "to be successful, any eventual TPP agreement must result in more open dairy markets in Japan and Canada."
The June 3 2014 letter is the just the latest attempt by USDEC and NMPF to push through a conclusion to the talks.
In March 2014, the dairy duo, which between them represent the interests of US dairy producers, processors and exporters, urged TPP negotiators to "move forward without" Japan and Canada.
They said then that trade talks with Japan and Canada had "been frustratingly slow, and US negotiators shouldn't allow the process to drag on indefinitely."
In a statement issued following the close its most recent TPP meeting in Singapore, the Office of the US Trade Representative said that delegates from the 12 parties had "cemented...shared views on what is needed to bring negotiations to a close."
"We focused in particular on making meaningful progress on market access and also advanced outstanding rules issues in an effort to narrow our remaining differences," the statement said.