Copa-Cogeca urges negotiators to remove red tape and technical barriers to trade in EU/US free trade talks

At a meeting in Washington today, Copa-Cogeca warned of the logistical problems for exporting produce to the US like costly labeling and shipping rules, stressing that these barriers to trade must be overcome to ensure a successful outcome to the free trade talks between the EU and US.

Speaking at the stakeholder event, Copa-Cogeca Commodities and Trade Director Arnaud Petit stressed “We believe that the agriculture negotiations in the free trade talks between the EU and US are not too tough to handle. The fact that 40% of agricultural raw materials processed by the EU food industry come from non-EU countries shows that the EU is already open to global trade. Around 70% of EU agricultural exports are also processed products like cheese, wine, processed meat at the high value end of the market. The biggest obstacle to trade therefore comes from unnecessary red tape and barriers to trade, costly rules and obligations, like labelling and packaging requirements. For example, EU dairy producers face huge obstacles when trying to market Grade A milk products in the US. In the fruit and vegetable sector, phytosanitary barriers prevent European fruit from entering the US market. This must be addressed. It is crucial to ensure that non-tariff trade barriers are tackled. We believe that most of the gains from a trade deal – three quarters in fact – come from lifting non-tariff trade barriers. We therefore urge negotiations to ensure these are lifted”.

Together with the European food industry, we have put together a report on non-tariff barriers, which should be addressed as part of the SPS negotiations. The main purpose of this exercise was to pinpoint areas with a significant impact on businesses and jobs. In the future, we cannot accept that the food industry should outsource processing facilities to North America area in order to lessen the burden of safety controls, as is the case today for the European dairy or foie gras sectors.

In addition, the negotiations between the EU and US should be looked at as more than simply channelling agri-food trade from one side of the Atlantic to the other. The result should also promote international standards. The principle of regionalisation should be included in the EU-US veterinary agreement as an example of an international standard that benefits all farmers. If we are not able to promote international standards in the agri-food sector together, we will lose an opportunity to establish favourable conditions to tackle global competition over the next 20 years.

Finally, following the political decision last March, we urge the US authorities to allow the export of European beef to the US market as soon as possible. The EU system of geographical indications (GIs) which protects European quality produce from imitations must also be acknowledged.

The move comes during the fifth round of negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement between the EU and US. Negotiations continued this week on technical barriers to trade, agricultural market access, and rules of origin.

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