EU Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan addressed the annual USDA Outlook Conference on Feb. 19, with much of his address focusing on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Hogan called TTIP “an historic opportunity to deepen our bilateral relations, including in the agricultural sector, at a time of unprecedented international tensions in our North Atlantic neighborhood.” His full remarks are available online.
When speaking with reporters earlier in the week, Hogan struck an optimistic tone with regard to removal of regulatory barriers that frustrate U.S. meat suppliers serving the EU. In contrast to earlier statements made by some EU officials, Hogan said the EU is prepared to discuss all agricultural market access barriers in the TTIP negotiations, including restrictions on beef, pork and poultry production practices.
“The dialogue between Sec. Vilsack and Commissioner Hogan was very substantive and insightful,” said USMEF Economist Erin Borror, who was in attendance at the conference. “They did not specifically address beef and pork trade between the U.S. and EU, but did cover GMOs, pathogen reduction technologies, geographical indications, animal welfare and environmental regulations. All of these issues are critically important to the success of the TTIP negotiations.”
Vilsack placed heavy emphasis on the importance of U.S. agricultural exports, stating that 30 percent of all U.S. agricultural production is exported and that jobs tied to exports are the highest-paying in the agricultural sector. He also stressed the important role the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) can play in helping U.S. agriculture capitalize on Asia’s rapidly growing middle class.
Ambassador Darci Vetter, who serves as chief agriculture negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, addressed the Outlook Conference Thursday evening. Vetter said TPP negotiations are much closer to conclusion than the TTIP talks, but noted both agreements present the United States with opportunities to play a major role in shaping the rules of trade and to begin important dialogues with the other trading partners, so that future trade barriers can be avoided.
Vetter added that bilateral talks between the U.S. and Japan under the TPP have made significant progress with regard to Japan’s sensitive agricultural products, especially compared to the terms Japan has previously agreed to in its economic partnership agreements with other trading partners. Slides from Vetter’s presentation are available online.
The USDA Outlook Conference concluded Feb. 20. We will have more observations from the conference in the next Export Newsline.