Negotiations towards a US-EU free-trade agreement (FTA) should include science-based solutions to agricultural disputes, a coalition of US organisations has said.
In an open letter to the Obama administration, the coalition, including the American Meat Institute (AMI), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (BeefUSA), the National Chicken Council (NCC) and the National Meat Association (NMA), expressed concern over a rule that could leave agriculture out of FTA negotiations.
Proposed by the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TBD) and the Business Roundtable, the rule says that “negotiators should seek positive outcomes in each area at whatever negotiating pace is possible”, and that “forward movement should not be stymied by attempting to resolve all those difficult issues that have proven intractable in the past”.
The coalition, convinced that the “difficult issues” mentioned in the paper refer to agriculture, argued that this approach would assure the perpetuation of barriers in many sectors. “This plan is bold only on paper. In fact, its basic premise is that it is better to do whatever we can as soon as we can rather than the most that we can,” the letter said.
AMI vice-president of international trade Bill Westman told GlobalMeatNews: “We felt like it was important to respond. We have an excellent trade relationship with the EU, so we want to make sure that an FTA addresses all the issues surrounding agricultural trade, not just quotas.
“The move towards an FTA should be comprehensive and include sanitary issues that may be an obstacle to trade, not just quotas. We need to move forwards in terms of using science to justify trade decisions, as basing FTAs on politics would not make much sense.”
The letter mentioned the “myriad of restrictions” imposed by the EU on US products in the form of sanitary mesures, adding that “acceptance by the EU of internationally agreed standards and the adoption of science-based risk assessments must be an important part of the goal of improving the bilateral partnership”.
The coalition believes that removing EU sanitary restrictions would help keep the price of food low and ensure food security worldwide.
It added that agriculture should not be considered as an “intractable” topic, citing the World Trade Organisation’s Uruguay Round, which resulted in major EU agricultural concessions “that many had thought impossible at the outset – and would have been impossible without the pressure of a single undertaking in that negotiation”.
However, the organisations that signed the letter re-asserted their commitment to improving trade relationships between the US and the rest of the world, and their support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreements. “We are for an FTA with the EU. We think trade is important to our economy and we’ve been very supportive of the TPP agreements and the FTA with Korea for example,” added Westman.