Canada undermines U.S. dairy provisions of USMCA
The new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) goes into effect on July 1 and Canada is already undermining terms of the deal by limiting U.S. access to a Canadian dairy market that remains tightly controlled.
On June 16, Canada released details of tariff-rate quotas (TRQ) that are supposed to give U.S. dairy suppliers more access to the Canadian market under agreed-upon terms of USMCA. In reality, Canada's new TRQs discourage U.S. dairy retail products and high-value food service from entering Canada.
In a news release the next day, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) sharply criticized Canada's allocation of its tariff-rate quotas (TRQ).
"Canada's administration of previous TRQs under existing free trade agreements gave the U.S. dairy industry ample cause for concern, which has unfortunately been confirmed by the announced TRQ allocations," said Tom Vilsack, president and CEO of USDEC. "Canada's actions place the U.S. dairy industry at a disadvantage by discouraging utilization of the full use of the TRQs and limiting the market access granted by USMCA."
USMCA contains important provisions to the U.S. dairy industry that are supposed to facilitate the smooth flow of U.S. dairy products throughout North America at a time of critical need and economic uncertainty.
However, Canada has announced the distribution of the TRQs in such a way as to discourage high-value food service or retail products from entering its domestic market.
USDEC and NMPF have repeatedly warned that the full benefits of USMCA will require careful monitoring and stringent enforcement of Canada's USMCA commitments.
For example, in a January interview with RFD-TV Vilsack cautioned that ratification of USMCA is not enough. He said USDEC will closely monitor the dairy details of implementation to ensure USMCA delivers as promised.
"We are keeping a wary eye on our Canadian friends," Vilsack told RFD-TV in January, "because they do, from time to time, reinterpret agreements, and cause the market not to be as open as we'd like it to be."
In the news release, NMPF said if Canada doesn't come through as promised, U.S. dairy farmers will pay the price.
"U.S. dairy farmers and cooperatives are ready to help increase deliveries of high-quality U.S. dairy products to the Canadian market, but Canada's TRQ allocations fall far short of the full potential of its commitments under USMCA," said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF.
"Canada has chosen once again to manipulate its access commitments in order to protect its tightly controlled dairy market, and U.S. farmers will bear much of the brunt of this biased interpretation of USMCA's dairy provisions. USTR should act quickly to ensure Canada is held strictly responsible for abiding by the intent of USMCA to promote fairer trade between our nations."
O'Keefe is vice president of editorial services at the U.S. Dairy Export Council