Ag groups call for consistent U.S./EU FTA

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WASHINGTON, March 21, 2012 – A coalition of 40 food and agricultural organizations, including the National Pork Producers Council, has sent a letter to the Obama administration and Congress, regarding a proposed free trade-agreement between the United States and the European Union. The concern is that it might fall short of long-established U.S. objectives for trade pacts.

Some of the groups joining NPPC include the American Meat Institute, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers and the U.S. Meat Export Federation.  

“Some non-agricultural members of the business community have suggested that a U.S./EU FTA negotiation should not be pursued as a ‘single undertaking’ with success in one area dependent on success in all the others,” says R.C. Hunt, NPPC president, a Wilson, N.C., pork producer. “The agriculture community, however, believes that, rather than creating a high-standard, 21st Century trade agreement that is central to the administration’s trade policy efforts, approaches other than a single undertaking would assure the perpetuation of trade barriers to many U.S. products and sectors, including agriculture.”

As outlined in the letter, the “negotiating pace” for sensitive products, such as those involving food and agriculture, would be “that of a snail.” Furthermore, such directives are not workable in today’s trade arena.    

“The EU’s free-trade deals with other countries do not meet the high standards of U.S. trade agreements,” adds Nicholas Giordano, NPPC’s vice president and counsel for international affairs, “and we doubt that the EU would ever agree to open its market to agricultural commodities unless it was obliged to do so as part of a comprehensive trade agreement.”

The EU is particularly protective of its food and agriculture markets and producers.

Had the United States embarked on any of its existing FTAs using the approach that some have suggested for an EU FTA, many of today’s comprehensive agreements would not be in place, the coalition letter states. What’s more, the administration would not have the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks to point to as the model for all future agreements.

“Our FTAs with Korea, Colombia, Panama, the CAFTA countries, Australia, Chile and such, are comprehensive in scope and were negotiated based on a single undertaking. Likewise, the TPP negotiations are comprehensive in scope and will be based on a single undertaking,” Giordano points out. “That is the standard to which we are holding the TPP candidate countries of Canada, Japan and Mexico; to hold the EU to a lower standard than the rest of the world makes no sense, and is very dangerous for U.S. agriculture and other sensitive sectors.”

Giordano points out that U.S. FTA’s are in accord with World Trade Organization rules in that they cover “substantially all trade.” “The EU FTAs likely would not survive a WTO challenge. Rather than capitulating to the non-WTO compliant EU approach, the United States should hold the EU to the same high standards we require of our other trading partners,“ he adds.

The coalition’s letter emphasizes that removing the unjustifiable EU sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions on U.S. food and agricultural products would have to be an important part of the overall goal of improving the bilateral U.S./EU trade relationship. It also points out that maintaining agriculture’s role in FTAs is a way for governments worldwide to help keep food affordable.

“We need to see this as the critical national security issue that it surely is,” the agricultural groups stress.

For all of the reasons cited in the letter, the United States must continue to take the lead in insisting that its trade deals be comprehensive, Hunt says. “We must not backslide and embrace the type of trade agreement the EU favors,” he notes. “We must be consistent and pursue TPP-type FTAs.”

To read the letter, click here.


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