AHEAD of the holidays, the U.S. and European Union held their third round of free trade talks for what's known as the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (T-TIP).
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said he's "pleased with the progress" made in the early months of the T-TIP negotiations.
"It is a measure of progress that we are firmly in the phase of discussing proposals on core elements of each of the main negotiating areas as well as beginning to confront and reconcile our differences on many important issues," Froman said in a statement following the recent round of discussions.
"We have a lot of work to do in 2014, but I am optimistic about what we'll be able to accomplish in the coming year. There is strong conviction on both sides that we have the opportunity in T-TIP to make our trade relationship a substantially stronger driver of transatlantic jobs, growth and competitiveness," Froman said.
Negotiators are planning discussions in early 2014 in order to make additional progress before the fourth round, which will be scheduled during the first quarter of 2014 in Brussels, Belgium.
At the latest T-TIP round held in Washington, D.C., stakeholders, including many from major agricultural groups, were able to participate in stakeholder engagement events. USTR said the events allow negotiators to receive feedback on the ongoing talks with the aim of ensuring the strongest possible outcomes in the agreement.
The stakeholder presentations and briefing drew approximately 350 global stakeholders to discuss a variety of issues related to the transatlantic relationship. Negotiators met with and listened to more than 50 presentations from representatives of a wide array of interests, including industry, small businesses, academia, labor unions, environmental groups and consumer advocacy organizations.
Stakeholders had the opportunity to engage with T-TIP negotiators, ask questions, share viewpoints and receive feedback directly from the U.S. and EU negotiating teams. The stakeholder event was the latest in a series of formal and informal consultations on goals of the trade talks that U.S. T-TIP negotiators have conducted over the past year with members of Congress, state government officials and business, consumer, labor, environmental and other stakeholders.
Later in the afternoon, U.S. chief negotiator Dan Mullaney and EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia-Bercero briefed stakeholders, took questions and engaged in dialogue on various topics of interest. The negotiating teams welcomed the feedback received during the sessions and look forward to the opportunity to continue this dialogue in the future, USTR said.
Laurie Hueneke, National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) director of international trade policy, sanitary and technical issues, participated in the stakeholder forum and outlined the priorities for U.S. pork producers in the negotiations.
The EU is the second-largest market in the world for pork consumption and represents a tremendous opportunity for U.S. pork exports. However, numerous EU barriers prevent the U.S. pork industry from exporting significant amounts of pork to the 28-member economic and political block. These include multiple quotas with high in-quota duties, a ban on the use of ractopamine, mandatory trichinae mitigation, a prohibition on pathogen reduction treatments and a costly plant approval system.
NPPC said it will oppose any trade deal with the EU that does not eliminate all tariffs and other barriers on U.S. pork. Removal of all EU barriers would significantly increase U.S. pork exports to the EU, creating more than 17,000 U.S. jobs, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.
Bill Roenigk, consultant to the National Chicken Council, told the stakeholders session that after 17 years of being denied market access to the EU, T-TIP offers the "best, most viable opportunity" for U.S. poultry to once again be available to EU consumers.
The council said if U.S. poultry could again be exported to the EU, annual sales would be in excess of $600 million, which would represent more than 10% of the estimated $5.62 billion of total poultry meat the U.S. exported in 2013.
The Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) continued to urge U.S. negotiators to seek access for U.S. parmesan and other cheeses and to push back on EU efforts to claim exclusive rights to the use of these common food names in any discussions concerning geographical indications.
While CCFN agrees with the EU that there is a place for the protection of distinctive foods from distinct regions, such as Camembert de Normandie cheese from France, the consortium said the EU has pushed the bounds of these protections to include generic names.
CCFN pointed out the irony of the EU's aggressive overreach to "own" certain food names given the fact that American cheese producers have produced parmesan, asiago, feta and other cheeses for many decades and have often received international accolades and awards for those cheeses.
"It is incomprehensible to most Americans that, suddenly, U.S. food marketers who have produced these popular cheeses for decades would not be allowed to use common names such as parmesan, feta or asiago cheese, but this is the battle we find ourselves in," said Jaime Castaneda, CCFN executive director.