Any undertaking of negotiations to secure a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and the European Union must be fully comprehensive by including agriculture, especially issues addressing sanitary and phytosanitary provisions (SPS), according to a letter sent earlier this month to the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.  The letter was was signed by the National Chicken Council and 63 other agricultural organizations.

The 64-member coalition explained that any FTA with the European Union “must fit the excellent model established with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),” meaning that the negotiations must cover all significant barriers in a single comprehensive agreement. However, a trade working group report has suggested an initial U.S.-EU FTA be designed to “evolve over time,” by initially eliminating most barriers to trade and investment and set up a mechanism to later address other barriers.  Further, some EU officials have raised doubts about the EU’s commitment to dealing with SPS issues as part of the negotiations.  The coalition explained in its letter that SPS issues must not be left to some future consultative mechanism. Also, the SPS provisions must be fully enforceable.

Last month, the United States and the European Union jointly announced their intention to “initiate the internal procedures necessary to launch negotiations on a TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.” No official timetable has been announced for the launch but it is expected by many observed to happen by mid-year.

A copy of the letter signed by organizations can be viewed here.

Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus (D-MT) warned that he will not support a proposed free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union unless it removes barriers that have long blocked U.S. farm exports.  “As chairman of the committee overseeing U.S. trade, I will support a deal only if it gives America’s producers the opportunity to compete in the world’s biggest market,” Senator Max Baucus said.  Baucus said the Senate Finance Committee would meet later this month “to discuss how we can work together to accelerate” the U.S.-EU talks.

In a related development, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and the European Commission will hold a public meeting of the U.S.-European Union High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum April 10-11 in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the meeting is to gather input on priorities and next steps for promoting greater transatlantic regulatory compatibility. The two sides are working to reduce unnecessary regulatory differences and cut red tape while respecting each other’s right to protect their environment and safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens, according to the jointly-issued statement.


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