Free trade agreements between the US government and the EU have intensified. But as the potentially lucrative bill enters crunch time, farming body Copa-Cogeca said “protectionism” was not the way forward.
Cutting red tape, unnecessary bureaucracy and getting a good deal on zero-tariff trade deals are crucial obstacles to overcome if an agreement between the two parties can be reached, the body said in a stakeholder meeting in Belgium.
“We cannot make this U-turn; there are opportunities to be had from a deal, as long as red tape and non-tariff barriers to trade are cut,” said Copa-Cogeca secretary-general Pekka Pesonen.
“This is a particular concern for Copa and Cogeca since in the fruit and vegetables sector, for example, very few products can enter the US market after a pre-clearance procedure. EU dairy producers are also confronted with big obstacles when trying to market Grade A milk products in the US which effectively block our exports.
“We also need to ensure that tariff cuts in the market access offers are balanced after they were exchanged in October, with 97% of tariff lines included in the offer,” Pesonen added.
The secretary-general of Copa-Cogeca added that around 3% of products under discussion were classified as being “very sensitive”.
“Beef, poultry and pork have been classified as sensitive and issues like standards of production [and] domestic supports should be included in this discussion,” he added.
Discussion with EU and US counterparts are expected to be protracted. In addition to processed meats, there is talk about establishing trade for EU wine, cheese and olive oil. There is also hope of increasing fertiliser access to the EU market to ease pressure on farmers’ incomes.
On fertilisers, Pesonen said: “The big drop in oil prices on global energy markets has had downward pressure on commodity prices, but it has not resulted in a proportional drop in the price of mineral fertilisers along the entire chain.
“Fertilisers are a big cost factor for farmers. The American fertiliser industry could therefore enjoy full access to the European market through the TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] talks, to the benefit of EU farmers.