Seeing a path to agreement on divisive US-EU trade issues
By Jim Webster
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, July 17, 2013 - The United States and the European Union may be poles apart on agricultural biotechnology and the protection of “geographical indications,” or GIs, for unique foods, but negotiators may be able to find a way to compromise on those and other issues, according to experts at a forum on the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
The forum at the National Press Club Wednesday, sponsored by
the Farm Foundation and the International Food, Agriculture and Trade Policy
Council, came on the heels of the opening week of TTIP negotiations between
Speakers did not minimize the gap separating the two sides. While potential economic benefits are enormous, said forum moderator J.B. Penn, chief economist for John Deere, “we also must be realistic about the formidable challenges that a successful negotiation must overcome.” Among the most difficult, he said are GIs, sanitary and phytosanitary standards, the so-called “precautionary principle” and biotech approval and labeling and market access for U.S products.
“I don't think we're anticipating a complete Nirvana,” said Matt
O'Mara, the Biotechnology Industry Organization's director of international
affairs for food and agriculture. “We need to be realistic here and we need to
take a step forward.” He sees TTIP as “an opportunity to forge a new
relationship between the
The negotiators should focus on predictability and facilitating trade, O'Mara said. “We are not seeking to change the EU approach to cultivation or the EU approach to labeling. We want to find ways to facilitate trade. Specifically, would like to enforce the EU's own timelines for approval of biotech crop applications and remove politics from the decisions,” he said. “We can't predetermine the outcome, but we need to discuss how we deal with the backlog logistically, how to address the process. If the trains run on time, we don't have an issue.”
“We strongly reject any idea that the
William Kerr, an agricultural economist at the
The European approach to GI protection was defended by David
Biltchik, chairman of Consultants International Group, who represents Italian exporters
of Prosciutto de Parma ham. “We think GIs have been important in promoting economic
development of rural areas,” he said, citing
Panelists at Farm Foundation Forum on U.S.-EU trade negotiations, from left: J.B. Penn, John Deere, moderator; Sue Taylor, Leprino Foods, Matt O'Mara, BIO, William Kerr, University of Saskatchewan; David Biltchik, Consultants International Group; Craig Thorn, DTB Associates.