US, EU negotiators confront ag trade barriers in T-TIP talks

By Bill Tomson

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7, 2016 - U.S. and EU negotiators say they spent a good chunk of time during Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks this week seeking agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues, some of which are keeping some U.S. beef, pork and poultry out of Europe.

“We spent about three days on sanitary and phytosanitary measures,” Dan Mullaney, the chief U.S. negotiator, told reporters today in a teleconference during the 15th round of T-TIP talks in New York.

Ignacio Garcia-Bercero, chief EU negotiator, agreed, saying a lot of time was spent on “regulatory coherence” on animal and plant SPS issues.

 Together we can feed the Bees

Mullaney also said the two sides also devoted more than a day on agriculture tariffs with the aim of eliminating as many as possible.

Reducing tariffs will be key to a successful treaty, David Salmonsen, a senior director for congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said in a recent interview, but he said non-tariff barriers must be removed first.

SPS issues like Europe's effective ban on U.S. poultry are key to getting a good T-TIP deal for American agriculture, Salmonsen said. The EU has virtually halted U.S. chicken imports because European countries ban the type of antimicrobial rinses used by most U.S. producers to prevent salmonella contamination.

Other non-tariff barriers to U.S. agriculture include an EU prohibition on ractopamine, a drug commonly used by U.S. ranchers to promote the production of lean meat, and the EU ban on beef raised with artificial growth hormones.

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Mullaney and Garcia-Bercero also said they have been trying to iron out their differences on Europe's demands for Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs). Mullaney said negotiators will be spending much of today working on PGIs.

PGIs are scorned by much of the U.S. agricultural sector. Dairy producers are particularly upset over European attempts to protect what many in the U.S. consider common names for food products like Asiago cheese.

There is growing doubt that the two sides will be able to complete T-TIP during the last months of the Obama administration, but the chief negotiators said they won't let up on their efforts.

“Looking ahead, we plan to keep working to make progress in the coming months to deliver real, near-term benefits to our people,” Mullaney said in a statement released today. “Our EU colleagues share that goal.  In the remaining time of the current U.S. administration, there is still much that we can accomplish together.”

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