Trade representatives hopeful on ag negotiations

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Trade Promotion Authority legislation introduced in Congress recently is further evidence that negotiations are moving in the right direction, providing further hope for completion of trade partnerships with the European Union and Trans-Pacific partners. That was the feeling as trade officials spoke to Farm Bureau members attending a workshop at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 95th Annual Convention.

“With the world economy, things seem to be working in the right direction, but we need to make sure trade is there to maximize the gains of the economy and to speed it up,” said Ambassador João Vale de Almeida, head of the delegation of the European Union to the United States.

Speaking of the on-going negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Vale de Almeida was hopeful barriers that existed in the past will be overcome in the coming years.

“TTIP is the mother of all FTAs (Free Trade Agreements)…and a game changer for bilateral relations between the European Union and the United States, potentially leading to 800 million high-spending and highly sophisticated consumers,” Vale de Almeida said. “It also has the potential to be a game changer globally, as Americans and Europeans work to reenergize the world’s system, and do it according to our values and principles.”

Having recently completed the third round of negotiations, Vale de Almeida anticipated restarting negotiations soon, working on improving market access and lowering tariffs, and also including a strong regulatory component. He hopes to bring tariffs closer to zero, and remove “behind-the-border barriers” which can also serve as a form of tariffs. These barriers can be as high as 10 percent to 20 percent when fully realized, he said.

Vale de Almeida was confident these negotiations will continue to go well, having recently completed reforms of the European “Common Agricultural Policy” moving away from support based on production and toward a model that encourages rural development and rewards environmental protection.

“Though a few obstacles remain, we are seriously and sincerely engaged in opening up markets for American exports,” Vale de Almeida said.

Rowena Hume, trade counselor for the New Zealand Embassy, echoed Vale de Almeida’s comments on the positive nature of change taking place regarding trade in her Pacific region. Speaking on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Hume shared the belief that improving the trade potential in the Trans-Pacific region will greatly help American agricultural exports, which she said have decreased by 40 percent in recent years.

“Regaining market share would increase U.S. total exports by $600 billion or 3 million jobs,” Hume said. “The TPP could increase exports by $2 billion, with the dairy industry benefiting the most.”

Hume added that agricultural trade with all TPP members represents $150 billion–$79.6 billion for the U.S. alone–and 43 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports.

Though some concerns remain–specifically regarding geographic indications–both trade officials were hopeful these deals could be passed in the coming years, with benefits to national economies as well as down to the individual farmers looking to increase consumers of their products.

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