Executive Update

5 Questions for Global Strategies SVP Sean Darragh

1. What are the top priorities of the Global Strategies team for 2013?

There continues to be rapid advancements in technology, communications, diplomacy and trade enhancing access to overseas markets where GMA member companies compete and grow their businesses, as well as a host of foreign countries and international organizations constantly seeking changes to international trade policies that impact GMA members’ ability to conduct business around the globe.

Thus, the main priority for the GMA Global Strategies department in 2013 will continue to be helping its members expand their overseas investments and navigate the complicated and complex global business environment. We will do so by working to eliminate tariff and non tariff trade barriers; harmonize standards for food, beverage and consumer products (CODEX, ISO, IPPC); encourage border efficiencies; and advocate common-sense policies related to investment and tax, intellectual property and counterfeiting, multi-lateral organization (WHO, WTO, OECD) activity, market-based commodity prices, and customs facilitation.

2. How does GMA’s Global Strategies team promote policies that facilitate market access and drive regulatory coherenceto benefit GMA members in the global economy?

GMA leverages the vast resources of the USG on behalf of our members to facilitate trade and increase access in key international markets.  GMA provides input, advice and advocacy on trade agreements, tariff and non-tariff barriers, crisis management activities and more.  For example, GMA is working to embed language in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trade Agreement text that will foster regulatory coherence between TPP countries and ultimately improve market access opportunities for GMA member companies.  GMA is advocating for stronger enforcement of Trademark protection to combat counterfeit products.  Also, GMA is supporting strong language in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) chapter that would improve TPP members’ adoption and implementation of science-based measures.

3. How does GMA leverage its technical expertise to drive for trade policy that is beneficial to GMA members?

GMA leverages its in house technical expertise to work to ensure that Codex, the international food safety standards body, adopts policies that are science-based to facilitate food trade.  This is critically important as Codex food standards are used to settle food-related disputes within the World Trade Organization dispute settlement process. Codex standards also facilitate market access to many foreign markets.  GMA chairs the U.S. Food Industry Codex Coalition (FICC) that ensures that the USG and the food industry as a whole are aligned.  Additionally, GMA serves as the secretariat of the International Council of Grocery Manufacturer Associations (ICGMA) to build industry consensus and organize industry efforts around the globe.  ICGMA has official recognition before the Codex Commission, OECD, and International Chamber of Commerce.

4. What is the significant benefit for GMA members to have the Global Strategies team engaged in countries that are major trading partners, like China?

As the US prepares to implement FSMA, China announced its intention to revamp its food safety system as part of its 12th Five Year Plan in June 2012.  Since June, the Chinese State Council – China’s most senior policy making body - has sent two delegations to Washington to meet with the USG and GMA with a view toward understanding how the USG and US industry works side-by-side to maintain food safety in the US.  The State Council has a strong interest in working with GMA as it takes lessons learned from abroad to improve its domestic system.  GMA has the opportunity to share best practices and drive regulatory coherence.

Furthermore, the economic impact of food safety incidents can be severe. The likelihood of another food safety incident similar to melamine emanating from Asia, and China in particular, is highly probable. GMA needs to be poised to manage such a crisis, and ongoing engagement with regulatory officials within APEC, ASEAN, and Government of China lay the groundwork for such engagement.

 5. Is the Global Strategies team engaging in other parts of the world on GMA members’ behalf?

The Global Strategies team monitors policy developments across the globe, and we work with the US government and sister organizations around the globe to intervene when major trading partners consider adopting policies that unfairly affect GMA member companies.

For example, many countries in Latin America are increasingly pursuing policies to address their concerns about non-communicable disease (NCD) without consulting with the food and beverage industry.  Many governments are considering the idea of mandating warning labels be affixed on a large swath of food and beverage products, restricting sales of those foods, and restricting advertising and promotion of those products.  While GMA member companies support the policy goals of such initiatives, we consistently seek to find win-win solutions to allow governments to meet their objectives while maintaining an appropriate business climate. 

Toward that end, GMA has established the Latin America Work Group to focus on these Latin America NCD policy initiatives.  GMA is coordinating closely with members of the Work Group- GMA members (including Latin America representatives), food and beverage associations in Latin America, the International Food and Beverage Alliance, and the World Advertisers Federation- to engage the US government in these issues and to provide a platform for interested parties to communicate.

We are hopeful that this coordinated effort will result in better policies on NCD’s in Latin America, more transparency in the policy process, and implementation of regulations that honor existing international trade commitments.