The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens


Removing nontariff barriers tops COPA goals

COPA trade expert Daniel Azevedo and communications director Amanda Cheesley discuss the perceptions of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations in Europe. (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)

BRUSSELS — Removing nontariff barriers to trade is the most important goal in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the staff of COPA, the European coalition of farm groups, have told The Hagstrom Report.

In a November 6 briefing, Amanda Cheesley, COPA communications director, and Daniel Azevedo, the COPA trade expert, said European Union fruits and vegetables and dairy products face barriers that could be cleared up if the United States is serious about the talks.

Three-quarters of the benefits to agriculture from the TTIP could come from clearing up non-tariff barriers, Cheesley said.

Earlier, at an October 14 news conference in Brussels, Pekka Pesonen, the secretary-general of COPA and COGECA, the European organization of co-ops, noted that the U.S. system to admit European apples and pears “involves a slow and burdensome bureaucratic system, with which it is very difficult to comply: Five controls take place throughout the entire procedure, from the orchard to the packing shed, before the true pre-clearance inspection.”

Pesonen also noted that all E.U. fruits and vegetables must enter through the port of Philadelphia while U.S. fruits and vegetables can enter through any European port.

At that same news conference, Mansel Raymond, chairman of the COPA-COGECA Milk Working Party, noted that the United States recently increased duties on E.U. butter.

He also said some E.U. cheeses are denied access to the U.S. market because their labels fail to use UPC codes and bold type in a U.S.-approved format and that hard cheeses, semi-soft cheeses and soft ripened cheeses have to wait 60 days before circulating on the U.S. market.

“The main issue here appears to be the testing methods, which are not the same on both sides of the Atlantic. This must be resolved,” Raymond said.

The TTIP is perceived as more beneficial for wine, olive oil, processed products and fruits and vegetables, while European meat producers fear competition from high end U.S. meat cuts, which are the source of the greatest profits for both U.S. and E.U. producers, Cheesely and Azevedo said.

European producers also hope the talks may speed up the U.S. process of granting access to European beef, which has been banned due to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, they said.

The United States has technically lifted the ban, but slaughter facilities must be approved country by country.

The Europeans would also like to export veal to the United States, they added.

Europeans view geographical indicators the same as “branding,” like U.S. company names, Cheesely said. “It is also important for Americans to trust the products they get,” she added.

On the issue of the U.S. proposal that the Europeans accept chlorine-washed chicken, Azevedo noted that the European Union is a big importer of chicken from Brazil and Thailand and that those countries cleanse the chicken in a way Europeans find acceptable. European consumers trust the current standards on chicken, they said, and farmers there do not want to lose consumer confidence.

Azevedo said that even though COPA believes that the United States is dragging its feet in the agriculture negotiations, he believes TTIP could make progress on trading conditions.

“We don’t have to focus on one or two problematic products,” Azevedo said. “There is always a way to deal with the problems if there is a desire for consensus.”