Congress should help get TTIP approval, witnesses tell lawmakers

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2013 - Congress should work with the administration on approval of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in order to increase agricultural exports, as well as other exports, to the European Union, lawmakers and witnesses told the Senate Finance Committee during an Oct. 30 hearing.

Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said TTIP, which seeks to eliminate trade barriers between the United States and the EU, could boost U.S. exports by one-third and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Together we can feed the Bees"

“Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside the United States,” Baucus said. “Our trade agenda today gives American farmers, ranchers, businesses, and workers more opportunities to reach them ever before.”

Baucus also said Congress should push for legislation to revive Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or fast track promotion authority, which gives the president authority to negotiate trade agreements by up-or-down congressional votes, without amendment or filibuster. TPA was reestablished by the Trade Act of 2002, but it expired in July 2007. Several congressional attempts to revive TPA have been unsuccessful.

On TTIP, Ryan McCormick, president of the Montana Grain Growers Association, said the wheat industry supports a swift negotiation and ratification of a comprehensive, high-standard agreement.

“A successful TTIP must be completed in a single undertaking, with no exclusions or commitment to deal with tough issues at a later date,” McCormick said. “The countries comprising the European Union have been valuable buyers of U.S. wheat, and a successful agreement will enable us to maintain and grow sales and market share.”

McCormick said U.S. wheat producers have come under increased competition from Canadian producers, who recently completed a free trade agreement with the EU. “Given the seven-year phase-in period for the Canadian agreement, a shorter implementation period under TTIP would increase U.S. wheat competitiveness,” he said.

Further, as part of any TTIP deal, McCormick said the EU must agree to a predictable biotechnology approval process, which he said is currently slow and influenced more by politics than science.

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said TTIP represents a tremendous opportunity to deepen ties with the EU, but that there are long-standing issues to be resolved.

Carper said the U.S. poultry industry has been unable to export its product to the EU since 1997, closing an approximate $600 million market. The EU effectively prohibits U.S. poultry through non-tariff barriers formally because of its concern over the use of a pathogen reduction treatment, which is required by federal law and deemed safe by the FDA and scientific studies.

William Roenigk, senior vice president of the National Chicken Council, told lawmakers the poultry industry is less than enthusiastic for the prospects of TTIP.

“Our experience with the European Union's actions to block U.S. poultry imports - even in contradiction of the advice of its own scientists - tells us that Europe is unwilling to allow imports that would compete with European product, and that Europe will not live by the commitments that it makes in that respect,” Roenigk said. “We hope that we will, at some point, be able to strongly support this initiative.”

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