Dairy Groups Stress Key Points in NAFTA Negotiations
Negotiations are set to resume on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) now that Mexican elections have concluded and a negotiating team is in place. As talks continue, dairy groups reminded U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue of two issues critically important to the dairy industry.
The issues were outlined in a letter co-authored by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC). The letter, as reported on by www.dairyfoods.com, addresses key issues with both Mexico and Canada:
- Mexico’s geographical indication restriction: As part of a bilateral trade agreement with the EU, Mexico is prepared to designate geographical indication restrictions on several cheese varieties. This would be a significant barrier to many U.S. cheeses, impacting a more than $400 million market.
- Canada’s Class 7: The three groups asked for meaningful resolution to the Class 7 pricing scheme that restricts the import of certain dairy products. The Class 7 program has been hotly debated since NAFTA negotiations began and neither entity—the U.S. or Canada—has backed down from its position. As Canada maintains the importance of the Class 7 system for its own processors, certain groups within Canada suggest that perhaps the program should be revamped or scrapped in order to continue meaningful NAFTA negotiations.
Even as NAFTA negotiations continue, the Trump administration has authorized movement toward a bilateral agreement with Mexico. It is unclear, however, if such an agreement aligns with the permission granted by Congress to initiate initial NAFTA negotiations.