The European Commission is given the green light to begin talks with the U.S. on agreements regarding conformity assessment and tariffs on industrial products.
The European Commission on Monday said two directives have been approved by the EU member states to officially begin free trade agreement talks with the United States.
This action follows the July 25 joint statement between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Donald Trump to initiate the EU-U.S. trade talks. In January, the commission presented EU member states proposals for negotiating mandates to remove industrial tariffs and facilitate conformity assessments with the United States.
Specifically, the EU approval gives the European Commission the “green light” to begin formal negotiations with the U.S. on agreements regarding conformity assessment and eliminating tariffs on industrial products.
“We want a win-win situation on trade, beneficial for both the EU and the U.S.,” Juncker (pictured above) said in a statement. “Notably we want to slash tariffs on industrial products as this could lead to an additional increase in EU and U.S. exports worth around €26 billion ($29.3 billion).”
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said the decision will “help ease trade tensions,” adding the two agreements will “bring tangible benefits for people and economies on both sides of the Atlantic.”
“I am convinced that breaking down barriers to trade between us can be win-win,” she added.
A conformity assessment will make it easier for companies to prove their products meet technical requirements in either the EU or U.S.
However, the agreement will be strictly focused on industrial goods, excluding agricultural products.
The American Soybean Association (ASA) expressed disappointment that EU has, so far, excluded agriculture commodities from the trade discussions with the U.S.
“We had high hopes that some of the longstanding concerns regarding the EU’s policies on agricultural biotechnology and on revising the EU’s pesticide laws would be addressed,” said ASA President Davie Stephens. “With the EU now formally excluding ag, it will be difficult if not impossible to address these nontariff barriers that severely inhibit trade between our countries.”
ASA maintains that the EU approach to biotechnology, gene editing and pesticide regulation needs to be risk-based and consistent with international practice under the Codex Alimentarius (Codex), which is the foundation of internationally accepted standards and guidance. “The current and emerging EU regulatory approaches lack alignment with Codex, are based on hazard rather than risk-based assessments and represent barriers to trade,” the association said.
ASA asked the Trump administration to “push back on the EU and insist that these vital agriculture issues are addressed either in the context of an FTA or through bilateral discussions.”
The EU relies on U.S. soybean suppliers for more than 70 percent of this commodity import, valued at about $1.6 billion a year.
In general, the U.S. is the largest origin for EU agri-food imports. According to the EU, between February 2018 and January 2019, the value of agri-food imports from the U.S increased by 14 percent. “This represents an increase in value of €1.5 billion ($1.69 billion), mainly due to the increase in imports of soya beans, soya bean oilcakes and several other products,” EU said.