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Expanded Trade in the TPP Must Not Undermine North America’s Dairy Sector

As international trade negotiators continue attempting to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), farm, labor and consumer groups from throughout the Pacific Rim are demanding that they not interfere with nations’ sovereign right and responsibility to protect family farmers, processing workers and domestic food supplies – including North America’s dairy sector. 

“Too often, trade negotiators have been quick to relinquish the principles of sovereignty in the name of free trade,” said Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) in the United States.  “NFU urges negotiators in the TPP discussions to avoid compromising the United States’ and other TPP-member countries’ ability to self-govern their own people, including support for family farmers and ranchers.”

“The Teamsters are North America’s dairy union. We support trade that is fair and trade deals that keep and create jobs. That’s why we are concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations,” said James P. Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “Without a strong Labor Chapter and protections for dairy workers throughout the supply chain, the TPP should not be signed. We join the dairy farmers of North America and Japan and throughout the region, and demand that dairy be taken ‘off the table’ in the TPP talks.

”Yesterday, the Dairy Division of the International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations (IUF) issued a statement saying that, “we believe that sovereign democratic nations have the right to protect jobs and livelihoods in the interests of their peoples. For example, the supply management system in Canada provides price stability for producers and income stability for workers and has widespread democratic support within Canada. Its retention or otherwise, should solely be for the people of Canada to decide, free from any intimidation or blackmail by corporate interests or by other nations.

”Chris Flatt, national secretary of the New Zealand Dairy Workers Union also sent a letter to New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser on Monday stating that, “the DWU strongly maintains that any potential increased international market access for the New Zealand dairy industry must not be achieved at the expense of…fundamental fair trade principles.”

“With under 50,000 U.S. dairy farmers left, they deserve to have sensible policies enacted on a domestic level — not to be crushed by unfair trade deals that prevent them from recovering their costs of production through a fair pricing system,” said Ben Burkett, a Mississippi farmer and President of the National Family Farm Coalition (U.S).  “We are also concerned about expanded imports such as Milk Protein Concentrate, which could replace fluid milk in many products without being labeled clearly for customers.”

“Trade commitments should specifically set out to benefit farmers and farm workers and to provide means for taming the type of price volatility caused by over-reliance on export markets. Yet TPP proposals do neither,” said Juliette Majot, president of the Minnesota, U.S.-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “Corporate interests — not the interests of dairy farmers — would be served by opening up dairy markets and dismantling Canada’s supply management programs, placing greater control in the hands of a few big firms.”

“I believe the TPP interferes with the Canadian government’s obligations when it comes to protecting workers and food safety,” said David Froelich, director of the Dairy Division at Teamsters Canada. “Free trade isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t threaten Canadian jobs and food sovereignty.”

“In a time where people are concerned about food security and eating high quality food from local, family farms, it is very important that trade agreements not jeopardize our dairy sector.   We have to ensure that the TPP doesn’t hurt the ability of our local farms to make a living feeding us,” says Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians. 

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