Thailand could become the next country to join the ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, according to media reports from Bangkok this week. The announcement is expected to come during President Barack Obama's visit to Thailand this Sunday, which is part of a four-day trip with stops in Cambodia and Myanmar as well.
Earlier this summer, the United States and Thailand agreed to resume a formal dialogue under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement to address trade issues and discuss a way forward on Asia-Pacific trade integration, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP’s Asia-Pacific region constitutes the U.S. dairy industry's fastest growing export market, totaling over $2 billion in dairy exports during 2011. That's an increase of nearly 50 percent from the previous year, which was also a record.
Thailand currently is the 14th largest export market for the United States. Although it imported $68.7 million worth of U.S. dairy products last year, the country places significant tariffs on U.S. dairy products, including 30-percent tariffs on cheese and ice cream.
"Having Thailand join the TPP negotiations would provide an opportunity to eliminate these restrictive tariffs," said John Kelly, IDFA manager of international affairs. "It also would help to prevent the use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures and other regulatory barriers that could impede U.S. exports once tariffs are reduced."
Demand for Dairy Products Increasing
Thailand, along with the rest of Southeast Asia, has experienced steady dairy consumption growth, and the country's economy has been growing steadily. As the Asian-Pacific economies continue to grow and per capita income increases, demand for dairy products also increases, and these consumers are gaining a penchant for new products, like cheese, that haven't been part of their daily diet.
The TPP is a regional agreement that aims to liberalize trade and investment and address 21st century challenges. It is currently being negotiated by Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. Canada and Mexico will join the 15th round of talks in New Zealand next month, and Japan has expressed interest in participating as well.
The agreement's Asia-Pacific orientation and potential for expansion to other important dairy markets, such as Japan, make it an important vehicle for opening markets and establishing a fair and efficient system of international trade for dairy products.
For more information, contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.