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Dairy Facts 2016

Trade News: West Coast Ports Dispute Resolved; Sugar Reform Act Reintroduced

Feb 25, 2015

Trade News is a periodic update that provides a concise compilation of current trade happenings and their impact on the dairy industry. This week's column by Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs, discusses progress on Trade Promotion Authority, negotiations surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), the West Coast ports dispute, support from Congress on protecting proper protocols at the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the reintroduction of the Sugar Reform Act.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
Negotiations on market access are still underway, particularly between the United States and Japan on automotives and several sensitive agriculture products, including dairy. Canada has not put forth an offer on dairy, poultry or eggs yet.

The last informal round was held January 26-February1 in New York City. An informal round with the chief negotiators will be held March 9-15 in Hawaii in an attempt to hash out the remaining issues ahead of the ministerial round to be held in mid-April.

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP)
The eighth round of negotiations between the United States and the European Union was held February 2-6 in Brussels, Belgium. There will likely be another round in Washington, D.C., in April and another in Brussels in July.

The top priorities for IDFA in the T-TIP negotiations include a reduction in tariffs and non-tariff barriers, stronger sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and protection for U.S. exporters to continue marketing commonly used cheese names.

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)
IDFA believes that TPA is an important piece of legislation that must be renewed for completed trade agreements to move through Congress. TPA only allows an up-or-down vote in Congress on the final agreement with no amendments. TPA legislation was last enacted in 2002 and lapsed in 2007.

Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) have been working on an updated bipartisan bill. The bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate in early March with a possible vote by mid-March. 

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing February 26 on “Congress and U.S. Tariff Policy.” TPA is expected to be one of the many issues discussed.

IDFA has been working with the Trade Benefits America coalition to educate and gain support for TPA.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
Geographical indications (GIs) remain a top priority for IDFA with regard to our current and future trade agreements. The EU has been aggressively targeting U.S. dairy export markets to secure protection for GIs of cheese names that are commonly used by the U.S. dairy industry as well as other international dairy industries.

One area of concern is possible action by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which is considering expanding international protections for geographical indications by revising the Lisbon Agreement. Revisions are scheduled to be reviewed at the Diplomatic Conference in May, but only parties to the Lisbon Agreement would be allowed to participate. The United States is a member of WIPO but not a member of the Lisbon Agreement.

Earlier this month, IDFA, the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council applauded congressional leaders of the Senate Finance, House Ways and Means, Senate Judiciary, and House Judiciary committees for questioning WIPO’s actions, which could lead to the erosion of established trademark rights. Most critically, any new protections would impair the ability of companies around the world – including in the United States – to use numerous commonly used cheese names in export markets.

Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Ranking Member Sandy Levin (D-MI), Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) sent a bipartisan letter urging the Director General of WIPO to follow past practice by allowing all WIPO member countries to have an equal voice in determining any changes to the Lisbon Agreement. 

West Coast Ports
The ten-month-old contract dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association was resolved last week when leaders for the two sides reached a tentative agreement. The 29 affected ports have resumed normal operations, although the congestion caused by the slowdown could take months to clear up.

Prior to the agreement, IDFA, the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to “insist” that the parties work to accept the outcome of mediation.

Sugar Policy Reform
Earlier this month, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) reintroduced the Sugar Reform Act, which would change domestic supply restrictions and lower price support levels in the U.S. sugar program. The Coalition for Sugar Reform, of which IDFA is a member, welcomed the bipartisan bill and applauded the senators for their leadership and continued efforts toward sugar reform.

The senators introduced the bill in the last Congress, but it was not included in the 2014 farm bill. Similar legislation in the House is expected. Read more in this exclusive excerpt from The Hagstrom Report.

For more information, contact Beth Hughes, IDFA director of international affairs, at

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