Europe and U.S. divided on trade issues
Europe's reluctance to buy hormone meat or genetically modified food from the United States has exposed an "enormous gulf" that threatens the world's biggest trade pact, industry and labour groups told EU and U.S. negotiators on Wednesday.
Eight months into talks to create a transatlantic pact encompassing almost half the world's economy, divisions remain over opening up to each others goods, rules governing the names of foods and genetically modified food.
"There is an enormous gulf between the EU and U.S. positions," said Michael Dolan, a lobbyist for the U.S. Teamsters union, who rejected the idea that the European Union should be the only market to call Greek-style cheese 'feta'.
He warned that a trade deal "is likely to be smaller, more modest than its ambitions, because of so many intractable issues," telling negotiators in a forum also open to reporters.
Tensions over food, which have bedeviled many trade talks around the world, risk eroding already fragile public support for a deal that proponents say would increase economic growth by around $100 billion a year on both sides of the Atlantic.
Negotiators aim to finalize a deal by the end of this year.
Mindful of the huge protests surrounding global trade talks in the 1990s, EU and U.S. negotiators holding a fourth round of talks this week in Brussels took the unusual step of not only receiving lobbyists but also letting in the media.
What little awareness there is about the "Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership" (TTIP) could be distorted by anti-globalization protesters, EU ministers have warned.
At risk is a pact creating a market of 800 million people where business could be done freely, building on the almost $3 billion of transatlantic trade in goods and services each day.
Difficulties over agriculture bode poorly for the talks because EU-U.S. negotiators are seeking a far more a sophisticated agreement, going beyond farm goods to bring down barriers across all industries and businesses.
Even animal welfare is sensitive in a proposed accord where both sides would recognize each others standards to oil the wheels of commerce. Europeans said they consider U.S. standards concerning the slaughter of animals as being far lower than in the EU.
Even without such issues, U.S. farmers complain that the farm trading relationship is unfairly skewed in Europe's favor and want it addressed in the trade talks.
The European Union exported $16.6 billion of farm goods to the United States in 2012, much more than the $9.9 billion that U.S. farmers sent to Europe, partly because of EU rules banning imports of genetically modified food for human consumption.
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