At a joint press briefing, in Brussels, with EU commissioner Dacian Cioloș on Tuesday (17 June), US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the US had "put in place the process by which beef trade can be restored and resumed in the US from the EU".
The comments were made as part of a briefing to journalists following a 45-minute meeting between Cioloș and Vilsack, as part of Vilsack’s visit to Europe this week.
"Currently we have two countries – the Netherlands and Ireland – that have gone through the final step of the process, which requires us to check the food safety issues to make sure nothing has changed since the last time we had access," said Vilsack.
"We anticipate an inspection of the Netherlands operations this month, and the Irish operations next month. We would anticipate that if there were no problems with those audits that very shortly after those two countries would have access to our markets, and we would invite other European countries to do the same thing as the Netherlands and Ireland has done."
Vilsack travelled to Europe to discuss expanding trade opportunities, meeting with agricultural and trade officials from Brussels, Luxembourg, Paris and Dublin. The talks were focused on the importance of agriculture’s role in the US-European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, and the benefits the trade agreement could bring to both economies.
He told journalists that there was a "strong, lasting and important relationship between the EU and the United States, and it is important to strengthen and preserve that relationship".
He explained that with the new farm bill recently passed in the US and the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) established in the EU, "it is a time of change".
Cioloș said agriculture and the agri-food sector were an important part of the ongoing TTIP talks. However, he said that he was convinced that, after his discussions with Vilsack, the TTIP negotiations could not be fully realised without the EU and the US having a better understanding of their two realities.
Before the trip to Europe, Vilsack spoke of the EU being the world’s largest importer of food and agricultural products. "But despite the continued growth of this market, US market share is shrinking because US producers and exporters continue to face numerous trade barriers. The negotiation of the TTIP offers a major opportunity to address these barriers and expand market access for US farmers and ranchers.
"Reducing barriers to trade in the agreement will be especially beneficial to the small and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of our respective economies."
As part of his visit to Europe Vilsack will travel to Ireland, where he will meet with Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and accompany him on a tour of Irish beef and dairy farms.