EU commissioner says agriculture not on agenda for US talks

EU commissioner for Trade, Phil Hogan, said that the join declaration is "an important step toward addressing some of the fundamental issues distorting global trade,." [Olivier Hoslet/EPA/EFE]

The European Union intends to keep agriculture off the agenda in its trade talks with the United States and continues to support rules-based, open and predictable international commerce, the EU’s agriculture commissioner said on Friday (10 May).

A free trade agreement between the European Union and Japan is the “benchmark and ceiling” for the EU’s negotiations with the United States for a trade pact, Phil Hogan said.

Hogan, a former Irish government minister, also urged the United States to reverse tariffs on goods from China and the EU and return to a more “benign” system of global trade.

“Agriculture should be excluded from negotiations with the United States,” Hogan said.

“The fact that the European Union and Japan have a very good agreement will operate as the benchmark … to what is achievable between the EU and the United States.”

Hogan, who spoke to journalists at a press conference, is in Japan for a Group of 20 agriculture ministers’ meeting.

The EU indicated last month it is ready to start talks with the United States on only two areas: cutting tariffs on industrial goods and making it easier for companies to show products meet EU or US standards.

This stance puts Brussels at loggerheads with Washington, which has insisted on including farm products in the talks.

No trade deal without agriculture, warns US ambassador to the EU

The US will not sing up to any trade deal that does not include agriculture, US ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland warned during a conference at the European Bussiness Summit in Brussels on Tuesday (7 May), ahead of another round of transatlantic talks. 

US President Donald Trump’s administration is seeking better terms of trade with the EU, as well as China, Japan, Canada and Mexico.

In some cases the US has raised tariffs on goods in response to trade practices it considers unfair, which has roiled financial markets and slowed the global economy.

The EU is already facing US tariffs on its steel and aluminium exports and the threat of higher US tariffs on products ranging from large commercial aircraft and parts to dairy products and wine.

The US will also increase duties on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25%t from 10% later on Friday as it negotiates with China for a trade pact.

In response to questions about US-China talks, Hogan said cooperation is better than confrontation for global trade.

Earlier this year, a trade pact between the EU and Japan went into effect, creating the world’s largest open market.

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