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Toomey to EU: Hands Off Pennsylvania Cheese!

Letter Urges USTR to Stand Up for PA’s Dairy Producers

May 16, 2018

Washington, D.C. - As the United States, Mexico, and Canada continue discussions about modifications to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is calling on the Trump administration to address unfair trade barriers aimed at harming American dairy and cheese producers. In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, 27 Republican and Democrat senators, led by Senators Toomey and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), urged the administration to enforce current trade commitments by Canada and Mexico on dairy products, and work to increase foreign market access for American cheese exporters, processors, and dairy farmers.

"Can you imagine walking into a grocery store and not being able to find parmesan or provolone because our cheese makers are not allowed to use those names?" said Senator Toomey. "Pennsylvania is home to thousands of dairy farmers and artisan cheese makers who have spent generations cultivating products and brands that customers recognize. Any way you slice it, this ill-advised proposal would harm these industries."

On April 21, 2018, the European Union and Mexico reached a revised trade agreement that grants European producers exclusive rights to use 340 food names, known as ‘geographical indications,' in Mexico. Although a list of the specific food names has not been released, media reports indicate that the agreement included many food names - most notably of cheeses - that are considered generic in the United States.

In the letter, the Senators wrote, "In order to meet this objective, the United States must engage with Mexico on geographic indication restrictions to ensure that Mexico honors its existing trade commitments to the United States. These commitments allow American cheese exporters to continue using food names that Mexican consumers are familiar with. Anything less would grant European producers market share that American producers took decades to build and unjustly award them the future growth opportunities of those products. We appreciate your attention to this matter and stand ready to work with you to protect American cheese exports."

Along with Senators Toomey and Baldwin, the letter was signed by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).