Thorny Issues Revealed in US-EU Trade Talks

US & EU - US Agriculture Secretary was in the European Union last week, emphasising the importance of agricultural trade in negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Stumbling blocks to progress appear to include GM crops, hormones in beef and food processing technology.
calendar icon 23 June 2014
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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Europe last week meeting with agricultural trade officials and stakeholders to expand US agricultural trade and to emphasise the importance of agriculture’s role in the T-TIP currently being negotiated, according to the US National Chicken Council in its Washington Report.

Mr Vilsack met with officials in Brussels, Luxembourg, Paris and Dublin to make the US case on disputed issues in farm trade, as the Obama administration and European Union work on negotiations in T-TIP.

The US Agriculture Secretary stressed the benefits that the trade agreement could have on both the US and EU economies.

However, grounds for disagreement on agricultural issues are numerous including issues regarding genetically modified (GM) crops and food processing techniques.

Meeting with reporters, Mr Vilsack said that if “sound science” shows such products and practices to be safe, European consumers should have the option of purchasing the food that results.

He said: “If we are truly interested in feeding the world, truly interested in doing so with less pesticides and chemicals and truly interested in doing so with more inclement weather and more intense weather patterns because of climate change, we are going to have to adopt science.”

After talks with Mr Vilsack, EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said he was convinced that Europeans and Americans need “a better understanding of our realities” if negotiations for the proposed T-TIP are to succeed.

Meanwhile, ministers from the EU’s 28 member countries agreed in principle to empower any EU country to prohibit or restrict the growing of GM crops on its territory.

Some European countries are also claiming the sole right to market certain food products under names they consider their exclusive cultural heritage, such as feta cheese from Greece.

In addition, EU spokesman John Clancy said in a statement: “The EU will not be changing our food safety laws as a result of this agreement. That goes for genetically modified food and hormone-treated beef as much as other products. These issues are just not on the table.”

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