Trade issues aren't easy to work through, but a group of 40 ag and food organizations, are expressing their concern that a move to create a "single undertaking" approach to trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union could lead to a Free Trade Agreement that falls short of long-established U.S. objectives for trade pacts.
In its letter to the Obama administration, the groups say the approach being considered could lead to a perpetuation of barriers on my products in many sectors. "The 'negotiating pace' possible for sensitive products would no doubt be that of a snail, but apparently that would be acceptable under this approach, if that is all that is deemed 'possible.' This plan is bold only on paper. In fact, its basic premise is that it is better to do whatever we can as soon as we can rather than the most that we can," the letter says.
The coalition noted that the notion that agriculture is intractable is mistaken, citing the WTO Uruguay Round which resulted in major EU agricultural concessions that many had thought impossible at the outset – and would have been impossible without the pressure of a single undertaking in that negotiation. Similarly, agricultural differences in the Doha Round were, for the most part, not between the United States and the EU. Furthermore, problems in the Doha non-agricultural market access negotiations were arguably at least as intractable as those in agriculture.
“Keeping agriculture issues in trade deals is a key way for governments around the world to help keep the price of food affordable.,” the letter stated. “This needs to be seen as the critical national security issue that it is. Maintaining agriculture as a major element of any U.S.-EU FTA is extremely important because of another objective proposed for a new U.S.-EU trade agreement – that it should be structured such that countries with which the United States and the EU already have FTAs in common should be able to readily ‘dock’ with the U.S.-EU deal to create a trade arrangement that is more global in scope.”
You can see the letter, and its signees, at Trade Letter.