A total of 27 organizations in the US agri-food sector called for voluntary regulations on cheese in Mexico.
Organizations include: American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, Corn Refiners Association, International Dairy Foods Association, North American Meat Institute, National Grain & Feed Association, and the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
The organizations consider that there are growing obstacles to trade in dairy products with Mexico.
The number one export market for the US dairy industry has become increasingly volatile with multiple regulatory and policy developments creating repeated shifts in trade conditions and the prospect of additional trade barriers.
One of the most acute problems worsened in late 2020 when Mexico published a Mandatory Conformity Assessment Procedure (CAP) for the Mexican cheese identity standard (NOM-223-SCFI/SAGARPA-2018 ).
For associations, Standards of Identity (SOI) or “normatives”, as Mexico calls them, are created to ensure product quality and the integrity of that product; they do not focus on food security.
Therefore, they added, SOIs are widely used by the United States and other countries for various products, but they are not used as barriers to trade.
However, Mexico has approached this SOI and its compliance as if the regulation referred to risks to human or animal health.
The Mexican cheese SOI initially contained a voluntary CAP, but this was changed, in contradiction to the recommendations of a technical working group (GT), to a mandatory CAP, “in addition to introducing other problematic modifications that deviated from the recommendations. GT techniques”.
Consequently, the organizations state that it is essential that this cheese CAP is once again a voluntary procedure.
In addition to the problem of the cheese CAP, the associations have seen a continuous rotation in the changes of application of the Customs Law due to minor problems of compliance or interpretation of the paperwork; repeated policy proposals, including those advocated by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, aimed at reducing imports of dairy products; and increasing restrictions on the use of common cheese names in this key market.
Together, they said, they are creating a deeply turbulent market for dairy exports.
In a letter sent to the Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack, and to the United States Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, leaders of these associations express their growing concern about what they consider to be the rapid deterioration of the commercial relationship between the United States and Mexico.