Copa, Cogeca stress protectionism not the answer as EU, US trade talks progress

As free trade talks between the EU and USA intensify in the twelfth round of negotiations held in Brussels this week, Copa and Cogeca warned in a stakeholder event of a lack of progress on eliminating red tape and non-tariff barriers to trade. It is crucial to remove these as well as get a balanced deal on tariff cuts to open markets if the talks are to be really ambitious, Copa-Cogeca Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen said.

He drew attention to the crisis situation currently hitting EU agricultural markets, but warned that protectionism is not the answer. “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. 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 are exports”, he said.

“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. 3% are in the other treatment category which includes very sensitive agriculture sectors. Beef, poultry and pork have been classified as sensitive and issues like standards of production, domestic supports should be included in this discussion “, he added.

Outlining potential opportunities, he said “We see some opportunities for EU wine, some cheeses, olive oil and processed meat exports in the talks but it will be more challenging for the livestock sector. We also believe that 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 fertilizers along the entire chain. And fertilizers are a big cost factor for farmers. The American fertiliser industry could therefore enjoy full access to the European market through the #TTIP talks to the benefit of EU farmers. But we are concerned about implementation of the Webb-Pomerene Act. This act exempts American companies that export nitrogen fertilisers from the USA from anti-trust law. We urge the EU to call on the US Justice Department to repeal the act.”

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