Trade Policy Agenda Hits High Gear: USGC in Brussels for T-TIP Talks

With the U.S. election season fast approaching, the time pressure for progress on two pending trade negotiations is increasing. U.S. Grains Council (USGC) Director of Trade Policy and Biotechnology Floyd Gaibler is in Brussels this week for the latest round of United States-European Union negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).

“Market access and progress on biotechnology issues continue to be our key objectives in T-TIP,” Gaibler said. “The recently-proposed opt-out legislation is a good example of the kinds of issues we face.”

“The EU is supposed to be a single market. But when it comes to biotechnology, anti-science advocacy groups are looking to carve out exceptions. That will make a shambles of an already difficult situation.”

The European Commission has proposed legislation that would allow any country to restrict or ban the use of products containing biotech traits already approved by the European Food Safety Agency and the European Commission itself. That would fragment the single market; create regulatory and legal uncertainties; and increase costs for importers, feed manufacturers and European consumers.

“The fate of the opt-out legislation is uncertain but in the meantime, it is one more distraction in the context of very complicated T-TIP negotiations," Gaibler said. "Market access, timely, predictable, science-based regulations and regulatory transparency are important for U.S. agriculture. We are supposed to be negotiating one agreement with a one-market EU, not 28 separate side deals.”

While in Brussels, Gaibler is participating in stakeholder engagement meetings, briefings with senior members of the U.S. negotiating team and sessions with EU feed and food coalition partners.

It is too early to speculate about end-dates for the T-TIP negotiations, but negotiators from both the United States and the EU have received instructions to accelerate the talks. Recent passage by the U.S. Congress of trade promotion authority (TPA) and statements by the G7, a group of advanced economies, and the European parliament are signals of renewed commitment by top policy makers.