Members of the US meat and dairy industries are urging members of Congress to support the passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

The National Milk Producers Federation, U.S. Dairy Export Council and the International Dairy Foods Association recently sent a letter today to Congress addressing a number of critical implementation and enforcement issues that are key determinants in how the agreement is likely to work in practice. As part of this, the dairy associations urged the federal government to ensure that the other participating countries adhere to their respective commitments within the pact.

The TPP is a controversial trade agreement involving 12 countries along the Pacific Rim that account for up to 42 percent of all US agricultural exports. Trade ministers from each country gathered in New Zealand this past February to sign the agreement, though each country must now ratify the deal through its own political process. Supporters say the agreement—now more than five years in development—will bolster trade among member countries by eliminating tariffs and other barriers, while opponents fear the deal could be bad for jobs and award too much power to corporations.

In the letter, the three dairy groups outlined the benefits the agreement could bring to the industry, such as improving the rules of the road governing trade throughout the TPP region. For instance the letter addresses TPP’s ground-breaking commitments on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues, as well as geographical indications (GIs) and common food names.

“The geographical indications provisions in TPP, for the first time, establish a more equitable process for considering GIs and emphasize the importance of safeguarding usage of common food names,” the letter said. “This is a key priority for our industry as we face the European Union’s global efforts to wield GIs as nontariff barriers to trade in order to limit competition and market access from U.S. suppliers.”

The North American Meat Institute was one of 225 food and agricultural companies and associations that sent another letter to Senate and House leadership, calling for a swift vote on TPP

 “The TPP will not only remove barriers for our exports to 11 key Asia-Pacific countries, but it will also provide much needed leverage on future market access opportunities in potential TPP members such as Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia,” the letter says. “Furthermore, TPP provides high-standard trade rules, allowing the United States to lead in establishing market-driven and science-based terms of trade that will directly benefit the US food and agriculture industry in our efforts to compete and thrive in this important economic region. If we do not lead, we will simply fall behind as our competitors aggressively work to establish alternative trade agreements that place their agricultural interests at an advantage.”