OPINION  Members of Congress representing dairy districts from across the country have joined together to send a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking them to work together to build upon the successes secured in a “Phase One” agreement with Japan. It asks them to swiftly pursue a “Phase Two” agreement that addresses any remaining gaps and inequalities in market access, and establishes robust commitments on nontariff issues that can significant impact dairy trade.

The letter said, in part, “Given the fact that our domestic market is a top destination for Japanese exports, Japan must ensure that the terms of trade offered to the United States are better than those offered to other, less valuable, markets. We wholeheartedly endorse Ambassador Lighthizer’s assessment during his testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee in June 2019. ‘You cannot treat your best customer worse than you treat people from all these other countries in Europe and all the other (Trans Pacific Partnership) countries.’”

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, said, “America’s dairy industry is ready to meet Japan’s growing demand for wholesome dairy products. However, in order to fully secure necessary market access, the U.S. must act swiftly to break down the remaining trade barriers that have left our producers at a disadvantage in this important dairy market. America’s dairy farmers applaud the leadership and engagement of (legislators) as they advocate for America’s dairy industry in a fully comprehensive agreement with Japan.”

Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, said, “Congress has made their message clear: A comprehensive agreement with Japan is needed to secure additional opportunities for U.S. dairy, and progress should resume on its pursuit. The Japanese market is too valuable to America’s dairy farmers and processors to let trade negotiations continue to idle. We appreciate this bipartisan coalition for their robust support of securing additional tariff concessions, science-based sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and enforceable commitments to protect common cheese names.”

A 2019 U.S. Dairy Export Council study underscored the importance of a strong comprehensive trade agreement with Japan, finding that if the United States was given the same market access as our competitors we could approximately double our share of the dairy market.

The National Milk Producers Federation develops and carries out policies that advance dairy producers and the cooperatives they own. Visit www.nmpf.org for more information.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council is a non-profit independent-membership organization that represents the global trade interests of U.S. dairy producers, proprietary processors and cooperatives, ingredient suppliers and export traders. Visit www.usdec.org for more information.