The EU is a top destination for U.S. pork exports, but also one of the most restrictive markets, as tariffs and regulatory barriers like onerous required antimicrobial and pathogen reduction treatments are applied to pork exports to the EU, said Craig Thorn, testifying on behalf of the National Pork Producers Council to an interagency trade policy committee.
The Trade Policy Staff Committee, chaired by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, held a hearing at the Commerce Department on Friday to collect input on U.S.-EU trade talks, as both governments are undertaking preliminary work toward negotiating a free trade agreement.
President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a July meeting in Washington agreed to lay the groundwork for a limited free trade agreement that would cover non-automotive industrial goods (i.e., excluding agricultural commodities). But senior U.S. officials have pushed for agriculture’s inclusion since then, drawing repeated rejections by EU officials.
If agriculture is included in talks, the U.S. should work to garner EU acceptance of the United States’ meat inspection regime, Thorn said.
American Pistachio Growers Director of Government Relations Rob Nash said the U.S. should work for the immediate removal of EU tariffs on pistachios so U.S. exports can compete with Iran, which Nash noted has a comparative advantage over the U.S. in Europe and receives EU Generalized System of Preferences treatment despite U.S. and other nations’ sanctions on financial transactions with Iran.
Grocery Manufacturers Association Director of Federal Affairs Nancy Wilkins criticized the EU for maintaining a system that charges tariffs based on protein, milk fat, starch and sugar content, instead of standardized product classifications.
The U.S. runs an “appallingly high” agricultural trade deficit with the EU, totaling $1.4 billion in 2017, directly resulting from EU efforts to bar U.S. agriculture goods from its market, and including agriculture in the scope of talks would help tackle these issues, National Milk Producers Federation Vice President for Trade Policy Shawna Morris said.
“The [Trump] administration’s strenuous rejection to date of the EU’s efforts to exclude agriculture from the scope of negotiations sends a policy signal and takes an important step in that direction” of including agriculture in talks, Morris said.
The U.S. also should work to relax the EU’s cumbersome geographical indications requirements and onerous certification rules related to food safety, she said.
Several provisions of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) should be used as a basis for U.S.-EU talks, including national treatment of goods, import/export restrictions, import licensing, agricultural export subsidies, domestic supports, safeguards, food security, export restrictions, technical barriers to trade, good regulatory practices and customs administration and trade facilitation, said U.S. Grains Council Director of Trade Policy Floyd Gaibler.
Express Association of America (EAA) Executive Director Michael Mullen in written testimony called for regulatory harmonization between the U.S. and EU on customs and trade facilitation measures.
Specific opportunities include creation of a single window system, common data elements for import and export filings, enhancing mutual recognition of trusted trader programs by providing a common application process and broader benefits for membership, separation of the physical release of goods from duty and tax collection processes, and immediate release of express shipments upon arrival, Mullen wrote.
“EAA strongly supports the concept of negotiating a trade agreement with this significant U.S. trading partner, provided that the European Union agrees to a high standard, comprehensive agreement,” he wrote. “The U.S.-European Trade Agreement presents an excellent opportunity to speed the flow of trade by improving and harmonizing regulations, and EAA believes regulatory harmonization should be the major focus of this negotiation.”