WASHINGTON, June 16, 2016 - The U.S. will take all the help it can get in pushing forward negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union – and that’s one of the reasons USDA Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse is in Eastern Europe.

The U.S. is counting on Lithuania and Romania, two of the countries that Scuse has visited on his week-long trip, to support the U.S. goal of getting T-TIP fully negotiated this year, he told reporters today in a conference call from Bucharest.

Scuse said he has met with the prime ministers of both countries and stressed to each that the U.S. is hoping they will take leadership roles in moving the T-TIP negotiations forward.

“In Lithuania and Romania… the indication that I got is they’re strong supporters of (T-TIP),” Scuse said. “They very much would like to see this done. I think they understand that we need to get this done as quickly as possible.”

T-TIP negotiations so far have been fraught with differences over issues like EU's demands for geographical indicator protections for certain food products such as Parmesan cheese. But Scuse said that issue isn’t very controversial in Lithuania and Romania.

Photo courtesy of Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey
“These countries have strongly supported the T-TIP and they don’t have, in most cases, the same concerns that some of the other (EU) countries have on some of the other issues,” he said.

While there may be little T-TIP controversy in Lithuania and Romania, there is plenty in other countries like France and Germany and USDA has not been shying away from thorny issues, he stressed.

“Secretary (Tom) Vilsack has been very much engaged with his counterparts in those other member countries in the EU, as has (U.S. Trade Representative Michael) Froman and the team at USTR,” Scuse said.

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But Scuse’s trip to Eastern Europe wasn’t all about T-TIP. He also visited Ukraine, traveling with representatives of state agriculture departments and private companies like Case New Holland and Valley Milk that are hoping to forge new business ties.

“When we sit down to have these business-to-business meetings, there’s a lot of opportunities to connect our industries with industries in these countries that are looking for different products or improved products,” Scuse said.

Scuse said he has even toured a Ukrainian supermarket and met with the manager to discuss ways in which the business could source more products from the U.S.