Negotiations on a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement
March 8, 2013
Numerous agriculture groups, including the American Sheep Industry Association, contacted Ron Kirk, U.S. trade representative, applauding the decision to launch negotiations with the European Union (EU) on a transatlantic free trade agreement (FTA). It was reiterated that it is essential to U.S. agriculture that negotiations are pursued as a "single undertaking."
As a general consideration, the signators to the letter agree that the FTA must fit the excellent model established with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) for 21st century agreements. The next trade agreement to be undertaken by this administration should not fall short of this high standard for free trade agreements. This means no less than a negotiation that covers all significant barriers in a single comprehensive agreement.
The reason for the signators' concern with the FTA is statements by EU officials raising doubts about whether the EU has any real interest in dealing with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues as part of the negotiations. The letter states that SPS issues must be specifically addressed as part of the negotiations, not simply left to some future consultative mechanism, and SPS provisions must be enforceable. Examples of these issues include unjustifiable restrictions on production methods that negatively affect exports of U.S. meat, poultry and fresh fruits, costly political and regulatory delays to authorization of agricultural biotechnology products, labeling regulations that restrict U.S. corn, soy and processed corn and soy product exports, and imposition of arbitrary sustainability requirements on the production of feedstocks in the United States and other countries for biofuels used in the EU. Such unscientific measures have become the most challenging barrier to U.S. food and agricultural exports to the EU.
While EU officials have expressed opposition to addressing these difficult measures in the negotiations, they are nonetheless eager to seek the inclusion of new protections of EU products. For example, the EU has made no secret that it will seek restrictions on the use of names that are commonly used for many products. Geographical indications (GIs) are a legitimate form of intellectual property and deserving of protection; the United States already provides the same robust protection avenue for GIs that is available to other trademark holders. However, the EU wishes to reserve names for products that have been in common use around the world for many years. The United States is not alone in the world in its opposition to these efforts and the proposed U.S.-EU FTA should not become the platform for the EU to gain legitimacy for its objectives on this and other such protectionist measures.
The letter concluded with, "We strongly believe that a comprehensive and ambitious U.S.-EU FTA will generate economic growth, reduce market volatility and create thousands of new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic."