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US, EU formally launch trade talks

Ag groups continue to remain cautiously optimistic the European Union will deal with its non-tariff trade barriers.

President Barack Obama, together with European Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy, announced June 17 that the United States and the European Union (EU) will be launching negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) agreement.

The first round of T-TIP negotiations will take place the week of July 8 in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

In a fact sheet from the White House, it noted that "T-TIP will be an ambitious, comprehensive, and high-standard trade and investment agreement that offers significant benefits in terms of promoting U.S. international competitiveness, jobs, and growth."

The fact sheet specifically noted that the agreement will "tackle costly 'behind the border' non-tariff barriers that impede the flow of goods, including agricultural goods." Ag groups have been very skeptical of an ambitious trade agreement with the European Union because of its track record to institute non-scientific trade barriers.

“The misuse of sanitary and phytosanitary standards, including the EU’s restrictions on genetically engineered crops, has long been a tactic to impede trade. We will look closely to these negotiations to move past this trade distorting tactic and fully embrace a rules-based trading system with standards based upon scientific assessment," said American Farm Bureau Federation president Bob Stallman in a statement.

Stallman added AFBF remains "cautiously hopeful" that the negotiations will yield positive results for U.S. agriculture after the "seemingly endless array of non-tariff barriers" that Europe applies to many agricultural commodities and products.

In a trade call last week, the National Pork Producers Council reiterated its call for pork tariffs to eventually go to zero, which is what has occurred in every other of the 17 FTAs the United States has negotiated.

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