EU Commissioner for ag and rural development encourages U.S. partnershipWritten by Natasha Wheeler
“A future Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) agreement between the world’s two most important economic powers will give a strong boost to our economies and create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic,” stated European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan.
Hogan spoke at the 2015 USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum in Virginia on Feb. 19, encouraging a positive trade partnership between the European Union (EU) and United States.
“In Europe, we have a common agricultural policy,” he noted.
The policy covers 28 member states of the EU and 500 million citizens.
“I have to listen to a lot of views,” Hogan said.
He complimented the United States’ commitment to maximizing the contribution of agriculture to economic growth and jobs in rural communities. He also praised the innovation and generational renewal that the U.S. emphasizes in agriculture.
“I have the same commitment,” he stated. “We stand for the value of agriculture, and we passionately care about its future.”
Europe is driving its agriculture toward a market orientation, sharing products as exports with the rest of the world.
“I am here today to tell the story of a competitive, vibrant and American-oriented agri-food model, a model that produces high quality products for consumers the world over,” Hogan remarked.
The model, he added, stands shoulder-to-shoulder in a complimentary and harmonious relationship with American agriculture.
“Our objective should be to work towards ensuring the compatibility of our respective approaches and regulatory standards,” Hogan commented.
Regulatory compatibility, streamlined procedures and minimal red tape were some of the objectives that Hogan outlined in his support for a partnership.
“Trade facilitation should inspire our work on both sides of the Atlantic for jobs, growth and mutual benefits that trade can bring,” he continued.
European income and population dynamics currently indicate stagnant and declining food demand, yet the world population continues to grow.
“The EU has some key assets that could permit us to benefit from an increasing and more diversified food demand,” noted Hogan.
These assets, he said, include good climatic conditions, a resilient and competitive primary sector, a highly innovative agri-food sector and a skilled labor force.
“The EU agri-foods sector enjoys a healthy trade surplus with the rest of the world,” Hogan explained. “We exported over 120 billion euro in 2013 or about $135 billion.”
In the same year, the U.S. exported approximately $140 billion in similar products.
“We are really shoulder-to-shoulder in the global marketplace,” stated Hogan.
European production standards place high value on environmental conditions, animal welfare, social health and labor standards, and Hogan noted that consumers are responding to those value-added products.
“Part of this quality approach is EU geographic indications (GI),” he explained.
GIs are distinctive signs that identify the origin of a product, creating value based on tradition, culture and geography. Examples include Cognac and Roquefort cheese.
“GIs are about rewarding quality in rural areas. These products represent 30 percent of the EU agri-food exports to the United States,” he continued.
Comparing this value system to the U.S., Hogan described Napa Valley wine and Idaho potatoes.
“American and European consumers love the high quality of GI products, if the numbers enjoying Irish or Scotch whiskey, Italian wine or Spanish olive oil are anything to go by,” he stated.
By working together, Hogan noted that the United States and Europe can capitalize on the global demand for these products.
“T-TIP offers a historic opportunity to deepen our bilateral relations, including the agricultural sector, at a time of unprecedented tension in our trans-Atlantic neighborhood,” Hogan commented.
Europe has lowered tariffs that would affect T-TIP agreements, and Hogan believes that this strategy will benefit the United States as well.
“It’s a signal, and a clear signal, to American farmers that Europe is open and wishes to be open for business,” he stated.
The EU-U.S. trade relationship is currently the largest in the world, with goods and services accounting for more than 2 billion euro every day.
“The moment is now ripe to create a trade super-highway across the Atlantic, built also upon the experience of free trade agreements with other partners,” he added.
By the year 2050, experts believe that global population will reach 9 billion people.
“We have much to talk about in terms of innovation, biotech and big data,” noted Hogan.
He also said that it is important to encourage young people to take up farming and drive innovation on the farm.
“We have common moral, commercial and geo-political interest in working together to tackle the global challenge of food security in an environmentally sustainable way for growing a world population,” explained Hogan.
He also highlighted the common history, culture and interests between Europe and the United States.
“We need to stand strong and united together in solidarity across the Atlantic. I think we can make great progress in advancing our countries’ common interests. True T-TIP will see jobs, growth and prosperity flow to our rural areas and beyond,” Hogan said.