AMI Joins Coalition in Call for Comprehensive FTA

US - The American Meat Institute (AMI) joined a coalition of 40 food and agricultural organizations in expressing concern that a recommended ‘single undertaking’ approach to trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union could lead to an Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that falls short of long-established US objectives for trade pacts.
calendar icon 23 March 2012
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This approach was discussed in the recent paper, “Forging a Transatlantic Partnership for the 21st Century,” authored by the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD) and the Business Roundtable and in a report by the Transatlantic Task Force on Trade and Investment titled “A New Era for Transatlantic Trade Leadership.”

“Rather than creating ‘a barrier-free transatlantic market,’ this approach would assure the perpetuation of barriers on many products in many sectors,” the letter to the Obama administration and Congress stated. “The ‘negotiating pace’ possible for sensitive products would no doubt be that of a snail, but apparently that would be acceptable under this approach, if that is all that is deemed ‘possible.’ This plan is bold only on paper. In fact, its basic premise is that it is better to do whatever we can as soon as we can rather than the most that we can.”

The coalition noted that the notion that agriculture is intractable is mistaken, citing the WTO Uruguay Round which resulted in major EU agricultural concessions that many had thought impossible at the outset – and would have been impossible without the pressure of a single undertaking in that negotiation. Similarly, agricultural differences in the Doha Round were, for the most part, not between the United States and the EU. Furthermore, problems in the Doha non-agricultural market access negotiations were arguably at least as intractable as those in agriculture.

“Keeping agriculture issues in trade deals is a key way for governments around the world to help keep the price of food affordable.,” the letter stated. “This needs to be seen as the critical national security issue that it is. Maintaining agriculture as a major element of any US-EU FTA is extremely important because of another objective proposed for a new US-EU trade agreement – that it should be structured such that countries with which the United States and the EU already have FTAs in common should be able to readily ‘dock’ with the US-EU deal to create a trade arrangement that is more global in scope.”

Had it embarked on any of its existing FTAs using the approach being suggested by some for an agreement with the EU, the United States would not have in place the comprehensive agreements it has today, according to the coalition letter, and the administration would not be pointing to the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks as the model for all future agreements.

“In short, we strongly believe that this proposed approach is a recipe for a small, rather than a bold, transatlantic trade deal that would set an unfortunate precedent for all future trade negotiations,” the letter concludes.

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