T-TIP Negotiations in Brussels; U.S., Japan Hold TPP Talks

U.S. and EU negotiators held a fourth round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations in Brussels this week. USTR posted an updated factsheet outlining the United States’ T-TIP objectives.

John Brook, USMEF regional director for Europe, Russia and the Middle East, delivered prepared remarks at a T-TIP stakeholder meeting, emphasizing that the T-TIP negotiations present a unique opportunity for the U.S. and EU to bridge their differences on science, food production and processing technologies. Brook also noted that, “Market management objectives must not be allowed to be disguised as food safety issues.”

Trade officials from Japan were in Washington, D.C., this week for more discussions on agricultural tariff reductions under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). News reports suggested that any progress made was modest, but market access for U.S. meat was definitely a key focus of the discussions. USTR issued a brief readout on the talks, adding that working-level meetings would continue through Friday, March 14.

This week also saw a heightened level of discussion in the U.S. business and agricultural media of how important it will be for the TPP to provide meaningful market access improvements in Japan if the agreement is to have any chance of attracting sufficient support in Congress. On Thursday Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) joined representatives of the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, American Farm Bureau Federation and National Association of Wheat Growers at a press conference, voicing strong opposition to Japan’s desire to exclude certain agricultural products from tariff reductions under the TPP.

“Japan seems to believe they’re entitled to keep five sacred agriculture products off the table,” said Grassley, “We’ve got to hold their feet to the fire. The third largest country in the world can’t make protectionist moves like that without it having a ripple effect.”

(The five product categories Grassley referred to are: pork and beef, wheat and barley, rice and starch, dairy, and sugar.)