Global dairy groups are urging leaders at the G20 ministers meeting, slated for Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to prioritize maintaining, reforming and reinvigorating the World Trade Organization (WTO), which is the multilateral rules-based trading system.

The International Dairy Foods Association, the National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council said they joined their global counterparts in issuing the following statement:

We have come together as representatives of the dairy industries in Argentina (Centro de la Industria Lechera); Australia (Australian Dairy Industry Council); the European Union (European Dairy Association and Eucolait); New Zealand (Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand); the United States (International Dairy Foods Association, National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Export Council) and Uruguay (Camara de la Industria Lactea del Uruguay) because of the collective importance we place on there being a rules-based multilateral system which is respected and adhered to.

We strongly agree with the G20 trade ministers statement of September 2018, that international trade is an important engine of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and development. The multilateral trading system has supported trade and contributed to unprecedented improvement in standards of living around the globe over the last 60 years. Since agriculture was brought under the WTO framework, by the 1995 Uruguay Round agreement, dairy trade has nearly doubled, as regional and global food chains have expanded to provide high-quality dairy products to an increasing number of consumers at affordable prices.  

We also agree with G20 trade ministers that agro-food global value chains are one of the most important means to achieve a sustainable food future. It is, therefore, important that all WTO members respect their WTO commitments and work collectively to strengthen and advance the WTO frameworks.

Our organizations collectively call on G20 leaders to reject trade-distorting actions, such as imposing unscientific, overly burdensome or trade-distorting nontariff regulations; unilaterally raising tariffs in ways that are not WTO-compliant; or providing WTO illegal export subsidies. These actions undermine the functioning of value chains, lead to trade diversion, more volatile commodity prices and lead to a less efficient allocation of resources with higher costs.

We urge G20 members to intensify efforts to establish a roadmap for the WTO that cements its important role into the future.

We recognize that the WTO needs to continue to adapt to changing global economic and trading circumstances to address current concerns, maintain its relevance and lay the basis for future, sustainable growth in trade, including for dairy. We consider the changes needed include:

  • Reform of the dispute settlement system.
  • Improving transparency and timeliness of subsidy notifications.
  • Clarifying the procedures for administering tariff quotas to markedly improve fill rates.
  • Additional improvements to address trade-distorting practices.

The multilateral trading system is too important to our sectors, and to achieving a sustainable food future, to be left to one side. We call upon G20 leaders to put their collective leadership behind evolving and strengthening the WTO multilateral trading structure and architecture, including its dispute-settlement system.