By Richard Harman (author)
New Zealand now has an opportunity to capture the $570 million Mexican cheese market.
Mexico has imposed up to 25% tariffs on American cheese entering the country in response to President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminium from Mexico.
Speaking yesterday in Wellington, Senator Luis Fernandez the leader of the majority party in the Mexican Senate, the National Generation Movement, made the cheese proposal during a meeting with Parliament’s speaker, Trevor Mallard, yesterday.
Coincidentally Trade Minister David Parker is currently in Mexico City conducting talks on a trade agreement between New Zealand and the Pacific Alliance countries, Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru.
Senator Fernandez was part of a delegation from the Mexican Senate visiting Wellington.
Greeting the delegation, Mallard said he had spoken to Parker that morning, and he reported that the talks were going well.
Senator Fernandez (whose party has only just won power) said the party was committed to upholding both the CPTPP and the Pacific Alliance trade agreements.
He said there was room for trade between New Zealand and Mexico to grow.
“We are reacting to the offensive trade strategy of the US.
“When the US imposed tariffs on Mexico our response was not to impose tariffs on all the products from the United States,” he said.
“We put tariffs on very specific products, for example, bourbon and 25% tariff on cheese and lactose products from some states in the United States.
“This is a great opportunity for you because right now it is cheaper to buy cheese from New Zealand than from Wisconsin.”
He said New Zealand and Mexico needed to get to know each other better and that would lead to more trade.
The leader of the delegation, Senator Ernesto Cordero, said New Zealand and Mexico were neighbours separated by the Pacific.
The Mexican cheese tariffs have been a big blow to the American dairy industry. It is the US's largest cheese market, and it has a 75% share of Mexico’s cheese imports.
U.S. Dairy Export Council President and CEO Tom Vilsack has said that the US had a competitive advantage in Mexico; now it has only a logistical advantage.
And he told a US TV programme three weeks ago that Mexico could now very well start to look for alternative supplies.