Today in Tokyo, President Biden launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) with a dozen initial partners: Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. According to a White House fact sheet, IPEF will strengthen America’s ties in this critical region to define the coming decades for technological innovation and the global economy.

In a statement, the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) said they welcome the announced launch of IPEF and the opportunity it offers to strengthen ties with key trading partners across the Asia-Pacific region.

Exports are exceptionally important to the U.S. dairy industry, the Arlington, Va.-based organizations said. The United States exported $7.75 billion in dairy products worldwide in 2021, equivalent to approximately 17% of total U.S. milk production.

“IPEF offers a chance for the United States to have a positive impact on the trading environment in a vital area of the world,” said Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC. “The Asia-Pacific region is an important destination for U.S. dairy exports and offers impressive prospects for continued growth and expansion, thanks to growing consumer demand for the type of high-quality products the U.S. produces so well.

“If IPEF is crafted to include meaningful market access improvements and address non-tariff barriers, then these regional trends will help drive economic benefits for American farmers, dairy manufacturers and industry workers for decades to come,” she added.

Dozens of members of Congress from both parties have underscored to the administration the importance of securing market access gains in IPEF, USDEC and NMPF said. On March 30, a bipartisan group of 87 House members urged the administration to prioritize agriculture in IPEF negotiations and outlined examples of both tariff and nontariff results that should be pursued. On May 9, two dozen Senate Republicans wrote to Ambassador Tai and Secretary Vilsack to urge the inclusion of market access and enforceable commitments in IPEF.

While supporting the use of IPEF and other targeted trade tools to advance exports, USDEC and NMPF said they have been unyielding in their call for once again pursuing comprehensive trade agreements around the world, and especially in the Asia-Pacific region, where competitors such as the EU and Oceania have been especially active.  

“Today marks an essential first step on what will surely be a complex journey,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “But to successfully compete in the Asia-Pacific region and meet their demand for dairy, we ultimately need a level playing field. That means tackling both tariff and nontariff barriers that weigh down the ability of U.S. dairy exporters to keep pace with EU and Oceania competitors that have successfully negotiated agreements across the region.

“We support USTR’s launch of IPEF and look forward to partnering with the administration on it as talks proceed,” he continued. “As that commences, I urge the Biden administration to set specific time frames for IPEF negotiations so that it can deliver meaningful results for American dairy farmers. We cannot afford another Trans-Pacific Partnership-type outcome in which we negotiate for six years only to walk away from the final result, leaving our exporters no further down the road than where we started.”