US dairy leaders have hailed the US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) as one that will expand overseas markets for US dairy products.

"With growing dairy demand, deficit domestic production and geographical proximity, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are natural export markets for the United States," said Tom Suber, president of the US Dairy Export Council.

"This agreement provides true benefits for the US dairy industry by granting new access for high-quality US dairy products to more than 43 million people," he added.

After implementation, the agreement will grant immediate new access to US exporters for more than 2,600 metric tons of cheese, approximately 4,800 tons of milk powder, 820 tons of butter, 760 tons of ice cream, and 980 tons of other dairy products. Tariffs for these products will be phased out to zero, and tariff-rate quotas will grow, over 20 years. In addition, the US will get unrestricted access for whey, lactose and certain cheeses, among other products.