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Tips on TTIP from ‘E.U. Anonymous’

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here are behind-the-scenes insights into the agriculture negotiations in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that The Hagstrom Report garnered during a visit to the capital of the European Union. These comments were made by officials and the diplomats on the condition that their identities would not be revealed.

Negotiations over the regulation of financial services and whether foreign companies can compete for government procurement contracts are the most important issues in the negotiations — not agriculture: “If TTIP is not finished, it won’t be due to agriculture.”

European officials and diplomats see the TTIP as an agreement that could not only increase trade but also set a model for the rest of the world.

European leaders are worried about opposition to TTIP in their countries and must cope with the fact that “there is a huge imbalance” between what is going on in the negotiations and “what is being talked about in the streets.”

European Union negotiators have allowed representatives of member states in the room for the negotiations, and they hope that even though this makes negotiations more complicated, the presence of the country-level officials will increase support for a final agreement.

On both government procurement and agriculture, European officials are annoyed that U.S. negotiators keep saying that there are limits to their proposals because the states have powers of their own under the U.S. Constitution.

“Maybe the [Obama] administration doesn’t have the clout to proceed on procurement,” one official said.

Trade Representative Michael Forman has told the Europeans that he can negotiate all the way until January 2017 when the Obama administration leaves office, but there is speculation that if Congress passes the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, Froman will decide it is time to depart, leaving the Obama administration without a Senate-confirmed trade negotiator.

Europeans are taking the position that the U.S. negotiators only want to export more agricultural products to the United States, and say the U.S. attitude is “entirely mercantilist. You can’t win everything and give nothing.”

While E.U. trade negotiators argue that TTIP could lead to increased exports to the United States, the Russian ban on European products has reduced farmers’ enthusiasm for trade. The Russian situation has made European farmers believe that officials’ previous pro-trade arguments were “naïve.”

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A political sticker posted on a Brussels street opposes both the Transatlantic and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and the E.U.-Canadian Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). (Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report)
With elections upcoming in France and Germany, opposition to TTIP from rural voters — not just farmers — is “troubling.” In France, the right-wing Front National has already argued against TTIP and may attract more rural support through that campaign.

Making a living from farming is getting harder in Europe, leading to a decline in the farm population and leaving farmers worried that trade may make it more difficult for the next generation to make a living on farms.

While there is opposition to TTIP in Western Europe due to consumer concerns, Eastern European farmers fear the importation of U.S. commodities.

European negotiators have described the E.U.-Canadian Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) as a model for U.S.-E.U. negotiations, but U.S. negotiators have said the European Union and the United States have to develop their own agreement.

CETA, meanwhile, has been noncontroversial in the European Union, but is now being linked to TTIP and some European protest groups are urging opposition to both agreements. The European Parliament must still approve CETA for it to go into effect.

Geographical indicators

Canadians agreed to grant certain European products the use of place names — a system known as geographical indicators — under CETA.

Europeans believe U.S. negotiators should use the Canadian-European agreement as a model, but the U.S. dairy industry and negotiators have rejected that idea.

The Europeans not only want to achieve geographical indicator status for certain cheeses, but want to claw back the agreement that now allows sparkling wine to be sold as California or New York champagne.

While Korbel currently sells its product as California champagne in the United States, it will have to sell it as sparkling wine in Canada.

Agency relationships

European officials are pleased with their relationship with the Agriculture Department’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on sanitary and phytosanitary issues.

The USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service has implemented a “structured process” for equivalency in comparison with the Food and Drug Administration.

Meat exports

Opening up meat exports would be a big accomplishment for TTIP, since E.U. poultry, sheep, goat meat and egg producers cannot export to the United States.

U.S. poultry producers could export to the European Union if the U.S. government would guarantee the production process, the Europeans say.

The success of U.S. exports of beef from cattle that have not been fed hormones proves that American firms can export to Europe and still respect E.U. requirements.

Animal welfare issues

The Europeans would like TTIP to provide for “cooperation” on animal welfare issues. The California law requiring cages of a certain size for laying hens is similar to the standards in the European Union, they note.

But the United States maintains that animal welfare is an ethical issue, not a sanitary and phytosanitary one.

Other animal welfare issues that have come up are the length of time animals can be transported, although the European countries have different transportation standards, as well as whether animals can be tethered and the future of cloning.

GMOs

TTIP should result in regulatory harmonization and reduce duplication, but it will not affect the European laws in place on genetic modification and foods containing genetically modified ingredients, the Europeans say.

Who needs TTIP?

Negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic face difficulty in explaining the importance of terms like “regulatory coherence” in language ordinary voters can understand.

European negotiators say the agreement must help small and medium-sized enterprises to win approval.

It’s unclear whether European Union member countries will have to vote on TTIP, but the European Parliament may influence individual country parliaments whether or not to approve it.