USTR hears concerns about US-EU trade deal

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 31, 2013- Several agricultural groups reiterated their concerns regarding ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union in a public hearing Thursday.  

On May 29 and 30, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in conjunction with the Interagency Trade Policy Staff Committee (TPSC), heard testimony on U.S. priorities for the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement.

Over sixty interested witnesses testified at the TTIP hearing in response to the request for comments that appeared in the Federal Register on April 1.

Lets Talk Food

National Chicken Council (NCC) Senior Vice President Bill Roenigk testified on behalf of NCC, USA Poultry and Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) and the National Turkey Federation (NTF).

Roenigk said a new trade agreement with the EU must provide meaningful market access to the European market for U.S. poultry, and that “without a successful outcome for poultry in the TTIP agreement, the U.S. poultry industry will seriously question the need to support such a bilateral trade agreement.”

He noted that although the EU is an attractive potential market for U.S. poultry with nearly 400 million consumers and a projected $600 million market for U.S. poultry exports that will continue to grow, the EU's restrictive trade policies prevent true market access.

“As seen in the past the European Union acts aggressively by overly-protecting the domestic poultry producing industry. Non-tariff barriers, especially technical barriers to trade, prevent import competition from U.S. poultry,” Roenigk said. 

He said until the industry has “a clear indication” of how the agreement will result in meaningful market access with the elimination of all non-tariff trade barriers, he cannot support the agreement.

USTR and other agencies are engaged in a 90-day consultation process regarding the proposed TTIP agreement. The United States and the EU account for nearly half of global GDP and 30 percent of global trade. According to USTR, roughly 13 million jobs in the United States and the EU are supported by transatlantic trade and investment. 

“A comprehensive TTIP agreement would augment the United States' already extensive trade relationship with the European Union (EU), and would build a stronger economic partnership that would benefit businesses of all sizes and increase employment opportunities and growth on both sides of the Atlantic,” according to USTR statements.

Richard Wilkins, the treasurer of the American Soybean Association (ASA), testified Thursday that U.S. exports of soybeans and soy products fell 82 percent in 14 years, from 9.9 million tons in 1998 to 1.8 million tons in 2012.

“We believe important causes for this sharp decline include the EU's requirement that food products derived from agricultural biotechnology be labeled, and more recently, the EU's discriminatory policies on biofuel feedstock under its Renewable Energy Directive (RED),” Wilkins said.

He also noted that “no action has been taken” on the U.S. food industry's request from 2003 that USTR challenge the EU's labeling policy in the World Trade Organization.

ASA's priorities for TTIP include ensuring the EU provides commitments on how it sets pesticide import tolerances, requiring that an EU proposal to subsidize certain high-protein soybeans does not become law, and ensuring the EU reforms restrictive tariffs and sanitary measures for livestock.

“The U.S. livestock industry is the largest market for U.S. soybean producers,” Wilkins said. “These measures must be addressed in the TTIP negotiations.”

Other food and agricultural groups that provided comments or testimony for the hearing include: National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Export Council, International Dairy Foods Association, CropLife America, Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Center for Food Safety.

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