PARIS – US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the US and EU should focus on concluding smaller trade agreements with agricultural products because Brussels is not keen on a broader agreement.
“I do not think you are giving up on this. I think you just understand that there are several ways to potentially expand access to markets, ”Vilsack told POLITICO’s Future of Food and Farming summit.
Vilsack said there are “opportunities where individual issues are resolved by giving and taking … and that is what we are committed to now,” such as the mini-EU-US agreement on lobster.
Vilsack said the US $ 17 billion deficit in agricultural trade with the EU meant “we do not have … a balanced agricultural trade relationship.” Although he said it would “absolutely” be nice to have a big deal, he questioned whether there was really will in Brussels and how long it could take to negotiate.
Asked about French plans to block imports from parts of the world that do not meet EU green standards, Vilsack said such a move would create “a trading system that is not really a trading system.” Paris is preparing to step up its push for its presidency of the EU Council next year,
Vilsack warned that the French were pushing to adapt the EU’s internal food standards to its extroverted trade agenda, could stifle innovation, reduce consumer choice and push up food prices.
Vilsack insisted that the United States has not given up on entering into a broader agreement, including agriculture with the EU. “We will continue to push for a trade relationship that is more balanced and even.”
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