Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson hosted an event in the European Parliament last week which brought together key stakeholders from both sides of the Atlantic to discuss the on-going Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.
The focus of the debate was how to establish a level playing field for the agri-food industry in any potential EU-US trade agreement.
Panellists at the debate included Jim Higgiston the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Minister-Counsellor for Agricultural Affairs, Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General of Copa-Cogeca and Cristina Rueda-Catry from Commissioner Hogan’s team.
Following the debate Mr Nicholson commented: “Now that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations are wrapped up eyes in Washington will now be turning across the Atlantic. Indeed EU and US negotiators were meeting last week in Miami for the 11th round of negotiations.
“If a fair and balanced deal can be agreed, TTIP could present huge opportunities for Europe. But no trade negotiations are without risk. That is why we must have appropriate safeguards.
“In writing the Agriculture Committee’s opinion on TTIP along with Paolo De Castro MEP, one of my primary focuses was to put the retention of European food standards at the top of the agenda.
“We cannot allow a situation whereby products from third countries which do not meet our high standards in Europe, and which are regulated under a different regime, push EU producers out of the marketplace.
“In particular, the Commission must defend sectors like the suckler cow herd, the poultry and pigmeat sectors, which analysis suggests may be vulnerable if a free trade agreement is reached with the US.
“Agriculture should not be a bargaining chip in the negotiations to secure market access for other sectors.
“We need a fair and balanced TTIP that protects vulnerable sectors and public services while allowing us to maximise the opportunities of a closer trade relationship with the United States.
“This week’s debate was a useful way of bringing together stakeholders from both the EU and US to discuss the agri-food industry’s concerns at what is an important time in the negotiations.”