March 13, 2017

Dairy Leaders Visit Mexico to Strengthen Trade

 |  By: Mike Opperman

Mexico is not being shy about finding new trade partners, and three of the top dairy industry CEO’s are hoping to do something about it.

As reported in Politico, Tom Vilsack with the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Michael Dykes with the International Dairy Foods Association and Jim Mulhern with the National Milk Producers Federation will visit Mexico this week in hopes of patching relations with the number one importer of U.S. dairy products.

Relations with Mexico have soured in recent months over two important topics: the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and immigration policies. President Trump has said that the existing NAFTA agreement gives unfair advantage to Mexico and encourages U.S. business to relocate there. As for immigration, the President’s insistence on building a wall—paid for by Mexico—and deporting Mexican immigrants has underpinned the trade debate.

Whether it’s just posturing to get a better trade deal with the U.S. or true negotiations, Mexico is transparent about its desire to find new trading partners, and U.S. competitors are lining up to take advantage. Last week New Zealand’s trade minister Todd McClay requested talks on a free trade deal with Mexico be placed on an upcoming meeting agenda. Conversations with the European Union and Mexico about a bilateral agreement are in the works as well.

All of this leaves the U.S. in a bad position—on the sidelines watching the biggest competitors to U.S. trade work deals with its biggest customer. The trio visiting Mexico this week hope to make sure Mexican trade negotiators understand how much the U.S. values a relationship with Mexico.

“We want to reemphasize the fact that Mexico is a valued customer for dairy,” Vilsack told Politico. “Obviously any agreement that’s been around for awhile has areas where there can be improvements, but we want to make sure they understand, from the U.S. perspective, that preserving NAFTA is important.”