A coalition of U.S. food and agricultural organizations led by the National Pork Producers Council is urging the Obama administration to press the European Union to negotiate a "comprehensive" free trade agreement, including addressing sanitary-phytosanitary barriers to trade.
In a letter signed by 47 organizations sent May 20 to U.S. Trade Representative nominee Mike Froman, the coalition expressed concern with a resolution approved last month by the European Parliament that in negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the United States the EU should maintain the "precautionary principle" for SPS issues.
"The European Union uses the precautionary principle in adopting different measures," says NPPC director of communications Dave Warner. "Which is that they fear something may happen, so they legislate against it."
"Precaution in the EU has become a pretext for import protectionism under the pretense of consumer safety," the coalition wrote in its letter. "Such non-science-based measures have become the most challenging barrier to U.S. food and agricultural exports to the EU."
Examples include certain restrictions on production methods that negatively affect exports of U.S. meat, poultry and dairy products; discriminatory and trade-restricting product labeling requirements; and regulatory barriers to biotechnology that restrict U.S. corn, soy and processed corn and soy product exports.
The coalition said SPS issues must be addressed as part of the negotiations, not left to some future consultative mechanism as some EU parliamentarians have suggested. Additionally, SPS provisions negotiated under the TTIP must be enforceable. If certain sectors or measures are excluded from the TTIP or placed into a "future negotiation" category, the agreement likely will fail to win the support of the food and agricultural sector, the coalition said.
EU represents a key market
Warner and Randy Spronk, NPPC president and hog farmer from Edgerton, Minn., note the EU represents the second largest consumer of pork in the world. However, the U.S. exports more pork to Honduras than the EU.
"The EU represents a tremendous market opportunity," Spronk says. "It's a very important market, if we can open it to US pork producers."
Another desire is the phasing out of high tariffs. "We've met with several countries in the EU and really the talking point that we're saying to them is on all tariff barriers you're going to have to go to zero to be in TTIP," he says. "We both are pretty honest with each other on what we need to do to make a trade agreement and it's in the very early initial stages."
Spronk notes the significance exports have to U.S. pork producers. "U.S. exports account for 25% of U.S. pork production," Spronk says. Pork exports have added $56 to the price of a hog, based on live weight.
"That's a large amount," he says. "Trade is very important to our industry."