Opinion

Will corn, chicken and champagne scuttle a U.S.-EU trade deal?

Iowa's Agricultural Economy Under Threat From Trade War With China

By Sen. Chuck Grassley for Politico

When trade representatives visit me to discuss biotechnology products, often the first thing I do is eat a genetically modified kernel of corn from my farm in New Hartford, Iowa, to show that American biotechnology products are safe for consumers. In Europe, this wouldn’t be possible. As a WTO panel found, the EU unduly delays approvals for U.S. agricultural biotechnology. Remarkably, the delays take place even after EU scientists conclude the products at issue are safe. As trade discussions between the U.S. and the EU move forward, European trade representatives must come to the table on agriculture.

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European leaders continually claim that their consumers don’t want biotechnology products. With no concrete scientific evidence to support their claims about safety, the EU is simply denying consumers the right to decide what products they want to buy for their families. But biotechnology isn’t the only problematic issue.

The EU has blocked the importation of U.S. chickens since 1997 because they are treated with antimicrobial baths. However, the EU allows the importation and sale of vegetables that have undergone the same treatment. This double standard doesn’t make sense to me, and it wouldn’t make sense to American poultry farmers if a trade deal was made that didn’t address this glaring inconsistency.

Unfortunately, the EU’s insistence on excluding agriculture from trade talks doesn’t come as a surprise. There have been countless tariff and nontariff barriers imposed on American agricultural products over the past two decades. For example, the EU has sought to exclude U.S. agricultural products from European and third country markets through the use of labeling rules known as geographical indications that prevent products from carrying names such as “champagne” or “parmesan” that originated in specific regions but are now in common use. By preventing U.S. agriculture producers from using commonly accepted names, geographical indications impede the ability of U.S. producers to market their products abroad.

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