Tariffs, ractopamine, and Codex standards: Can the EU and US trade deal really come off?

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags International trade Eu

Tariffs, ractopamine, and Codex standards: Can the EU and US trade deal really come off?
Expansion of existing tariff rate quotas (TRQs) on beef, with the hormone ban remaining in place, is likely to be the only modification of agriculture policy by the EU under trade talks with the US, says a policy expert.

“It is rare the free trade agreement that is finalized without tariffs,”​ said Martin Banse, head of market analysis at federal research agency, the Thunen Institute, in Germany.

He said such a development on beef quotas would be akin to what was agreed under the Canada and EU free trade deal, CETA.

Speaking to FeedNavigator, Banse also said the US is unlikely to mirror the EU Commission’s move in early January that saw it publish its draft proposals​ under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal.

“A representative of the EU Commission told delegates at a TTIP debate in Germany over the weekend that it was not expected the US side would respond to the release of EU policy briefs with anything like the same degree of transparency,”​ he said.

Last week saw negotiators from both sides of the Atlantic begin the latest round of TTIP talks in Brussels.

Different food safety philosophy

Banse says many of the hurdles around realizing a TTIP deal are linked to fundamental differences in philosophies around food safety between the parties.

“It is not a question of one side saying it has higher food safety standards than the other. No, ultimately, it is that EU and the US policymakers have a completely different mindset on how food safety is achieved, with the precautionary approach given due consideration in the EU.

Now they are actively negotiating with each other - there is skepticism on both sides, and sticking points remain.

But the Commission again made it clear to delegates over the weekend that it won’t be relenting on the precautionary principle or hormone treated beef – they are not up for debate,”​ he added.

And Banse says few insiders expect that US pork exports from pigs fed the beta agonist, ractopamine, will gain EU market access under TTIP.

Societal sway

Gina Tumbarello, director of international policy and trade at the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), said US farm groups and policymakers are aghast that societal choices holds such sway in terms of decision making in the EU.

She also said they find the use of language around animal welfare and sustainability in a trade deal highly unusual.

We caught up with the AFIA representative during IPPE 2015 in Atlanta. She told us that the draft proposals released by the EU last month reveal little that is not already known.

And she stressed that: “A proposal on caveats attached to Codex Standards that would allow either party to opt out on thresholds, for example, would only serve to undermine harmonization efforts.

In order for there to be equivalence under the TTIP and to make market access for operators on both sides of the Atlantic less burdensome, we need to have regulatory convergence.

We need to make decisions that are based on science and the views of international standards setting bodies.”

‘Science based’ decisions urged

In that context, Tumbarello said the EU’s ban on the feed additive, ractopamine, is not scientifically justified and is not compliant with international regulations.

At a meeting of the international standard setting body Codex Alimentarius in 2012, the question of whether the beta agonist was safe to use in feed was voted on by member states. It passed but by an extremely narrow margin.

The US pig sector will continue to push negotiators to have the EU ban on ractopamine fed pork lifted under TTIP​. We say let such pork imports be labelled accordingly and then let the EU consumer decide,” ​said Tumbarello.

She reckons the US will respond in kind to the EU draft proposals released last month.

And the AFIA international trade and policy spokesperson said that both sides have to be optimistic about the possibilities of an EU and US trade deal. “A successful agreement will set an example for the global economy," ​she added.

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