T-TIP isn't dead, but it won't happen soon, Froman says

By Bill Tomson

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2017 - It became clear by the end of the summer that there was no possibility to conclude negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) in 2016 or even 2017, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said Tuesday.

Froman, speaking Tuesday at a forum hosted by the Washington International Trade Association, said he and his team put together a “proposal for a final agreement” last summer that addressed the differences that stood in the way of a deal and presented it to their European counterparts in September.

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“It became clear for a number of reasons … that Europe could not talk about their most sensitive agricultural market access questions,” Froman said in what was likely his last major address before the Trump administration takes office. The EU trade ministers “made it clear there was not going to be an ambitious, comprehensive agreement that year. That's just the reality of the politics.”

Among the factors working against a deal, Froman said, were the EU negotiators preoccupation with finalizing a trade agreement with Canada, the Brexit vote, as well as key 2017 elections coming up in the Netherlands, France and Germany.

Froman said he was surprised to learn that agricultural issues seemed to be the most sensitive issues that the European negotiators were reluctant to discuss. Gaining new market access to European markets for beef, poultry and pork have been major goals for U.S. officials who have been negotiating T-TIP for the past five years.

A recent USDA analysis showed that while the U.S. is importing record amounts of agricultural products from Europe, U.S. exports to the EU dropped 4 percent in 2015.

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“While the United States had a $16 billion agricultural trade surplus with the rest of the world in 2015, it ran a record $12 billion trade deficit in farm and food products with the European Union, up 15 percent from 2014,” the report concluded.

European tariffs are a major problem for U.S. exporters, but the EU has also virtually halted U.S. chicken imports because of bans on the type of antimicrobial rinses used by most U.S. producers to prevent salmonella contamination. U.S. pork exports are stymied by an EU prohibition on ractopamine, a drug commonly used by U.S. ranchers to promote the production of lean meat.

But Froman stressed that T-TIP can eventually succeed.

“I do hope at the end of the day the next administration and the European Union will be able to pick up where we left off and move forward on the remaining issues,” he said.

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