The Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) issued the following statement by Michael Dykes, D.V.M., IDFA president and CEO, regarding the Nov. 30 signing of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) during the G20 Summit Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina:

“Although we’re pleased that the three countries have taken the next step in moving the USMCA forward, the agreement is a hollow victory unless the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are lifted.

“Mexico’s retaliatory tariffs of 25% on American cheeses continue to have a negative impact on dairy exports, and U.S. dairy’s access to the Mexican market remains at serious risk. We’re increasingly concerned that the benefits won’t be realized as long as the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports remain in place.

“Once those tariffs are lifted, we will welcome the progress on USMCA, because it achieved three important priorities for the U.S. dairy industry.

“First and foremost, we preserved the duty-free market access to Mexico, our No. 1 market for U.S. dairy exports, accounting for 25% of our total dairy exports. We are also pleased to see some progress on protecting our market access for certain cheese names with additional geographic indications provisions.

“Second, we eliminated the Canadian Class 7 pricing program. Third, we obtained increased market access to the Canadian market.

“A signed USMCA is a positive step forward for the U.S. dairy industry across the board. Free trade agreements like the USMCA that open markets and lower trade barriers are crucial to continuing the trend of growing U.S. dairy exports. Maintaining and expanding access to international markets is essential for the future success of the U.S. dairy industry.

“We recognize that, given the political changes in the recent midterm elections and the uncertainty over the resolution of the steel and aluminum tariffs, it is very difficult to predict the timing of the final approval of the USMCA by the United States and implementation of the agreement by both Mexico and Canada. We will advocate for expeditious congressional approval so the agreed-to changes can be implemented as soon as possible.”