OPINION  The U.S. Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Federation thank the U.S. government for its work to reach an interim agreement with Japan that will deliver improvements in market access for the U.S. dairy industry. But the work to secure a sufficient competitive landscape in Japan for dairy is not finished.

The two groups look forward to reviewing with their members the details of this first stage of a trade agreement with Japan. They want them to take advantage of the new opportunities the agreement will provide on a near-term basis. The groups will continue to work with the administration to secure additional elements still needed to ensure a strong final dairy package in a comprehensive agreement.

Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, said, “This enhanced access into the Japanese market is welcome news. Japan represents a rapidly growing market. Without a trade deal, our competitors are poised to seize valuable market share from U.S. dairy. This first stage of a U.S.-Japan agreement will improve upon today’s status quo, which has been unsatisfactory ever since Japan’s treaties with the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership’ nations and the European Union went into effect. To continue that progress toward closing the competitiveness gap with both the ‘Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership’ and EU suppliers, it’s essential the United States secure further market openings and assurances in the second stage of negotiations with Japan to best position the United States to compete against all of our major competitors in Japan.”

Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, said, “This interim trade agreement with Japan is welcome news for farmers across the United States who have seen their incomes damaged by trade disputes. (The) news is not the end of the road though; it’s the first leg of the journey. We thank America’s trade negotiators for their pursuit of a deal aimed at benefiting our dairy farmers and expanding international markets for their high-quality milk. To reap those full rewards and ensure the United States is able to best compete in the Japanese market, the subsequent stage of negotiations must secure further inroads into Japan, building upon what our key competitors – the European Union and New Zealand – have secured there.”

The two groups agree with what United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told the House Ways and Means Committee during his testimony in June – “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.”

This past month the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Producers Federation coordinated a letter signed by 70 dairy companies, farmer-owned cooperatives and associations. The letter went to the United States Trade Representative and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture asking the U.S. government to move swiftly to finalize a strong trade deal with Japan and secure critical market access for the U.S. dairy industry. The objectives outlined in that letter remain the industry’s expectation for a comprehensive agreement with Japan.

The U.S. exported $270 million in dairy products in 2018 to Japan with room for further growth. But without a strong trade agreement that addresses the inequalities in market access granted to our competitors by the Japan-EU and the “Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership” agreements, a 2019 U.S. Dairy Export Council study found that the United States risked losing $1.3 billion in exports during a decade, costing dairy farmers $1.7 billion in farm income.

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