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Glauber: Multilateralism still has advantages for ag trade

ORLANDO — Multilateral trade agreements still have advantages for agriculture over bilateral agreements, Joseph Glauber, a former Agriculture Department chief economist who is now a research fellow with the International Food Policy Research Institute, said in Orlando on Jan. 31 at the International Dairy Food Association's annual Dairy Forum.

President Donald Trump, who has withdrawn from the Trans Pacific Partnership and said he wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, has said he prefers bilateral agreements, but Glauber noted that bilateral agreements result in a "hodge podge" of regulations. He pointed out that the bilateral agreements any trading partner has established with other countries also affects trade arrangements between any two countries.

The Uruguay Round had "very big benefits," he said. "I would argue there still is a big place for the WTO (World Trade Organization) and for regional agreements."

Although U.S. dairy exports have risen, "dairy globally is still a highly protected sector" with tariffs and nontariff barriers that prevent the movement of milk and milk products, Glauber said.

The gains that the U.S. dairy industry would have gotten from tariff reductions under the TPP were "pretty modest," Glauber said, but the important achievements would have been in the dispute settlement process and intellectual property protections.

Other countries moving forward on TPP without the U.S. and including China "is a very real concern," Glauber said, though he noted that there is a proposal for the U.S. and Japan to negotiate a bilateral agreement.

The European demand for recognition of geographical indicators for cheeses are an issue in the proposed but now stalled Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. But Glauber said the wine agreement between the European Union, the U.S. and other countries and the Canada-European Union free trade agreement signal that there are ways to resolve the issue, although they "don't satisfy everyone."

As other members of the panel analyzed potential growth in Asia and increased production in Latin America, Robert Yonkers, the IDFA chief economist who moderated the session, concluded, "Market demand growth might trump what might happen in trade policy."