Overcoming unscientific barriers significant in any EU trade deal

Published on: Oct 30, 2013

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing Oct. 30 to hear from the industry on the impact of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal. Members of the committee of the panel as well as the four testifying reiterated the importance of the trading relationship with the EU, but also identified the importance of continuing ambitious goals within negotiating any agreement.

The United States and European Union account for an estimated half of the global domestic product and a third of world trade. So the stakes are high for a trade agreement between the two in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) shared that the new trade deal could boost exports to the EU by a third and add more than $100 billion annually to U.S. GDP. But for TTIP to live up to its potential, a number of challenges need to be tackled. Most notably he called out the EU's "unscientific and unjustified barriers to U.S. agricultural exports, including beef and poultry."

National Chicken Council senior vice president Bill Roenigk testified that the poultry industry has serious concerns – even serious doubts – that any new trade agreement with the European Union will result in real and meaningful access for U.S. poultry exports to the region.

He testified that since 1997 when the EU implemented its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) changes, it has used a "bagful of scary tricks to severely hamper free and fair trade of U.S. agricultural products." This includes precautionary principles used "when it's convenient" that act as trade barriers.  

Roenigk estimated that if U.S. poultry could be exported to the EU, sales would be in excess of $600 million on an annual basis, making it one of the top export markets. Instead the EU is not an export market for the U.S. and what is needed is a regulatory climate where food safety is based on performance, not prescriptive ways or unfounded animal health concerns, he added.

Roenigk warned that the EU has been creative in its ways of getting around the current rules and regulations and any final agreement will need to be careful to prevent that from happening further.

Ryan McCormick, president of the Montana Grain Growers Assn., testified that exports account for 50% of U.S. wheat and 80% of Montana wheat. "Trade is just as important as tractors, fuel and seed," he shared.

He said it's imperative that a deal with the EU move forward, especially as the main competitor to the north - Canada - just inked their own deal with the EU. The outcome of that deal called for a permanent zero wheat duty phased in over the next seven years, which would make Canadian wheat preferable to EU users.

McCormick also called for an agreement to include harmonization on biotechnology and regulations of crops. Although the wheat industry does not currently use biotechnology, it hopes to one day use the technology.

Baucus said the degree to which TTIP is successful, also helps set up world standards creating a pathway for the United States to more easily trade with developing countries such as India.

Both Baucus and his ranking member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) reiterated support for passing Trade Promotion Authority and identified the role it would provide in advancing not only TTIP but also other ongoing negotiations including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and World Trade Organization talks.  

Roenigk added that TPA is not only critical for Congress to pass, but NCC believes "if given to our negotiators now, it would strengthen their hands, rather than be more susceptible at the negotiating table."