Dairy deal the toughest issue as TPP deal nears an end

The major item standing in the way of the one-of-a-kind free trade agreement, the TPP, is the most common: milk. The pressure is on the U.S., as the leading proponent of the deal, to break a longstanding impasse over trade in milk-products like powder, whey protein, and cheese.

A similar meeting in July in Hawaii resolved issues regarding e-commerce, investment and environment only leaving differences over pharmaceutical patents, vehicle trade and dairy business. Officials said that solution for the first two are in sight but the dairy trade would consume a lot of time in Atlanta.

The dairy issue is a potent political problem for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper who faces an election later this month in a country where dairy farmers are numerous in voter rich provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Harper has promised farmers that he won’t destroy their livelihood, but still the dairy industry is not buying it. Also, staying out of the deal is not an option for the export-dependent agriculture and agri-food sector of Canada. Also Canada’s agriculture minister said that any loss to dairy farmers will be compensated by softening the Canadian system of higher imports with payments to producers.

In New Zealand, a milk-producing powerhouse, trade minister Tim Groser said that he has prepared his dairy farmers for a measure of disappointment but also he would try and get the best possible deal. There is one reason why Australia and New Zealand are waiting is to repeat the case for fewer trade barriers. New Zealand’s agricultural industry representative have said that they will fight hard as it is a major industry for their nation.

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