A bipartisan group of 114 House lawmakers this week urged U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to force the European Union to include agriculture in any upcoming U.S.-EU trade talks.
“As you know, agriculture is the source of a great number of trade barriers and irritants in the U.S.-EU trading relationship,” the lawmakers said in a March 14 letter to Lighthizer. “Thus, an agreement with the EU that does not address trade in agriculture would be, in our eyes, unacceptable.”
They warned that “an agreement that fails to include agricultural products would be deficient, significantly jeopardizing Congressional support.”
The letter, organized by Reps. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., Ron Kind, D-Wis., Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Angie Craig, D-Minn., was signed by 93 Republicans and 21 Democrats. NGFA was one of eight agricultural organizations that helped circulate the letter and encourage congressional signatories.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has said the EU would not engage on agricultural issues with the United States, but the Trump administration has continued to press the EU on the matter. Lighthizer conceded during a Senate Finance Committee hearing this week that he’s made little progress.
“The U.S. cannot have a trade deal with Europe that does not deal with agriculture and their view is that they cannot have one that does, so we’re at a stalemate and we’ll see how that develops,” Lighthizer said.
In their letter, the House lawmakers urged the White House to continue pressuring the EU. “We were encouraged to see that the negotiating objectives for the EU that your office released in January included specific objectives on agricultural goods,” the letter said.
The NGFA views negotiations between the U.S. and EU as a critical battleground for addressing agricultural non-tariff market-access issues. The EU has pursued regulatory measures that conflict with both U.S. interests and World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. The EU’s inappropriate use of the “precautionary principle” when addressing regulatory measures is a challenge to both internationally agreed upon commitments to science-based regulation and international rules and norms, the NGFA has noted. And, increasingly, the EU has been encouraging other countries to adopt its regulatory practices and misuse of precaution through its network of 35 trade agreements.
Aside from the United States, the EU is the world’s largest import market for goods. Currently, U.S. agricultural, food and bio-energy exporters are constrained from accessing this market because of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers. These constraints to U.S. exports persist despite steadily increasing U.S. imports of EU products that have led to the largest U.S. agricultural trade deficit with any trading partner.