Trade Update

Any company exporting products, whether ingredients or finished goods, understands that to be an international player, one must master the rules of the game.
The thing is, the rules often change. From trade agreements (or the lack thereof) to technical sales barriers, there are a host of issues that merit constant evaluation. “It’s absolutely essential that if we are going to be working with international partners that we understand what’s going on. They expect you to have a good understanding of what’s going on,” says Gwen Bargetzi, director of marketing for Hilmar Ingredients, Hilmar, Calif.
Industry organizations like the U.S. Dairy Export Council, International Dairy Foods Association and Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), among others, work many ends of trade issues, helping U.S.-based dairy companies understand and deal with standards, regulations and agreements. Those groups also work extensively with U.S. trade representatives and government officials on efforts that ultimately benefit American producers.
Breaking just before press time was news of the collapse of World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha round talks in mid-summer, which resulted in a continued lack of progress on market-access issues and domestic subsidies. IDFA released a statement expressing disappointment in the stalled talks and reiterating its support for the U.S. government position requiring increased market access.  IDFA also called on Congress to extend the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).
Those in the dairy industry also are working to removed technical barriers to trade by playing a role in international standards organizations like the Codex Alimentarius Communication. USDEC and others also are pooling their efforts to ensure the openness and fairness of markets by working through wrinkles in agreements like DR-CAFTA and NAFTA and to strengthen relationships with trade partners.
According to Clay Hough, senior vice president and general counsel for IDFA, the industry’s collective efforts have an overriding goal. “The bottom line in what we are trying to do is to make trade more frictionless and transparent and create a level playing field out there where the built-in U.S. advantage in dairy can be brought to bear,” he says. “We can compete with anybody, and you add that to our infrastructure, logistics and state-of-the-art processing, and you have a winning combination. In the right international trading environment, that makes the U.S. a premier dairy exporting platform.”
And what about other issues that affect trade, such as the charged political atmosphere right now, with worldwide tensions at a high over conflicts ranging in the Mideast and long-range missile testing in North Korea?  “Fortunately, as long as there isn’t war disrupting commerce, the geopolitical aspects of U.S. products haven’t been an issue,” Suber says. “People may not always like the U.S. government policy, but it has nothing to do with how they perceive U.S. dairy products.”