Posted March 22, 2012
An ad hoc coalition of 40 food and agricultural organizations, led by the National Pork Producers Council, in a letter sent yesterday to the Obama administration and Congress expressed concern that a proposed free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union might fall short of long-established U.S. objectives for trade pacts.
“Some non-agricultural members of the business community have suggested that a U.S.-E.U. FTA negotiation should not be pursued as a ‘single undertaking’ with success in one area dependent on success in all the others,” said NPPC President R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, N.C. “The agriculture community, however, believes that, rather than creating a high-standard 21st century trade agreement that is central to the administration’s trade policy efforts, approaches other than a single undertaking would assure the perpetuation of trade barriers to many U.S. products and sectors, including agriculture.”
“The E.U.’s free trade deals with other countries do not meet the high standards of U.S. trade agreements,” added Nicholas Giordano, NPPC’s vice president and counsel for international affairs, “and we doubt that the EU.. would ever agree to open its market to agricultural commodities unless it was obliged to do so as part of a comprehensive trade agreement.”
Had it embarked on any of its existing FTAs using the approach being suggested by some for an agreement with the E.U., the United States would not have in place the comprehensive agreements it has today, according to the coalition letter, and the administration would not be pointing to the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks as the model for all future agreements.
“The United States is right to insist that the three countries seeking to join the TPP talks – Canada, Japan and Mexico – agree to meet the same TPP standards as the existing members, and if the E.U. were to ask to join the TPP, it should have to meet them as well,” said Giordano. “So a new agreement with the E.U. should be no different.”
The coalition letter makes clear that the removal of unjustifiable E.U. sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions on U.S. food and agricultural products would have to be an important part of the overall goal of improving the bilateral U.S.-E.U. relationship. The letter also points out that keeping agriculture in trade deals is a way for governments around the world to help keep the price of food affordable. “We need to see this as the critical national security issue that it surely is,” the agricultural groups stressed.
NPPC’s Hunt said that for all of the reasons mentioned in the letter, the United States must continue to take the lead in insisting that its trade deals be comprehensive. “We must not backslide and embrace the type of trade agreement favored by the E.U., which, like other E.U. FTAs, would fall well short of WTO requirements that FTAs cover substantially all trade,” he said. “We must be consistent and pursue TPP-type FTAs.”