The U.S. dairy industry advised top U.S. government agricultural trade negotiators that their efforts on any final Pacific Rim free trade agreement must put access to foreign markets for U.S. dairy farmers and processors first, and avoid pressure from other countries to regionalize all new market access opportunities in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) made the point in letters sent to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

As TPP negotiations head into their final stage, the dairy organizations expressed concern that industries in competing countries are counting on the United States to deliver export gains for all, rather than relying on their own governments to secure concessions in the trade agreement. “It is crucial,” USDEC President Tom Suber said, “for the U.S. to prioritize delivery of benefits to our dairy industry, not other TPP countries.”

As a case in point, the three groups cited the recently concluded Japan-Australia FTA, which does little to open agricultural markets and instead aims to put the burden on U.S. negotiators to win agricultural concessions for all in the TPP.

“The Japan-Australia FTA is an excellent example of the negative impact such a dynamic can have on U.S. interests,” Mulhern said. “Our competitors in other TPP countries must work with their own governments to secure market access rather than insisting that any gains secured by the U.S. in challenging areas such as agriculture be made broadly available to all.”

The dairy organizations applauded U.S. efforts to gain market access through TPP for U.S. dairy products in countries including Japan and Canada. They stressed that no tariff line should be left untouched in this agreement.

“We believe the negotiators will continue to push forward and leave no stone unturned in their negotiations with Japan and Canada,” said Connie Tipton, IDFA president and CEO.

The joint letter was sent in advance of a key meeting of the chief TPP negotiators in Washington next week.