European Commission leader urges quick action on TTIP

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 1, 2014 - The president of the European Commission urged negotiators in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks to reach a deal quickly, before critics can drum up more opposition to the proposed pact.

Lets Talk Food

In an address at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Jose Manuel Barroso called on “both parties, America and the European Union, to devote a lot of political energy” to completing the free trade treaty. Prolonging negotiations would give naysayers time to “highlight what they perceive as negative,” he said.

Barroso told an audience of business leaders from Europe and the U.S. that both sides must be ready to compromise, keeping an eye on the overall benefits of a free trade zone, rather than concentrating on separate sectors such as agriculture.

“Paradoxically, it's easier to be more ambitious than less ambitious,” he said. “An agreement just on agriculture would be impossible. But if it is a more comprehensive agreement, with accommodations of lowering tariffs and increasing market access… we can have a deal.  And I really believe we can have a deal.”

Barosso's comments came just a few days after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SDS) relating to agriculture were holding up progress in the talks, which head into their fifth round in mid-May.

In a statement released after Barosso's talk, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its European counterpart, BUSINESSEUROPE, also urged rapid conclusion of a TTIP deal.

“A quick conclusion of TTIP is one of the best steps our governments can take to generate employment and growth in Europe and the United States,” Emma Marcegaglia, president of BUSINESSEUROPE, said. “A good agreement will support our shared global competitiveness, and ensure that we are setting the highest possible standards for trade and investment liberalization.”

Europeans at the Chamber event said they were particularly worried about public support for the TTIP deal. Public dialogue on the proposed treaty - which some Europeans worry will lower food safety standards - is more negative in Europe than in the U.S.

“We see a risk that before the midterm election here nothing will happen,” said Marcegaglia. “We hope that this is not the case.”

The European Commission is the executive body of the 28-member European Union.

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