US official says talks with EU will include agriculture

US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue testifies before the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee hearing entitled 'The State of Rural America', on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 24 April 2018. [Michael Reynolds/EPA/EFE]

Agriculture will be part of the negotiations between the United States and the European Union, whether Brussels wants to discuss it or not, US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Monday (30 July).

He told reporters that “while they may love for agriculture to be outside the scope, it’s very much in our interests to address that with the EU, particularly on the non-tariff barriers that they continue to promulgate.”

Even though an EU official denied the topic was part of the agreement reached last week between President Donald Trump and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Perdue said Monday that, “frankly that is not in keeping with our understanding.”

Soybeans bring appeasement to EU-US trade war

The EU’s pledge to import more soybeans from US farmers was the ‘dealmaker’ in the agreement between European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and US President Donald Trump to stop the dispute and open trade talks, EU sources told EURACTIV.

Perdue raised another point of contention over Europe’s “increasingly aggressive” moves to “trademark” common food names like feta or mozzarella that have been sold in the US for 100 years.

Brussels wants to prevent other countries from using the geographic names and “we don’t plan to comply with that,” he said.

Trump and Juncker last week announced a truce in the ongoing trade dispute over US tariffs on steel and aluminium and proposed duties on autos, as well as the EU’s retaliation against key US goods.

Buying more US soybeans?

Trump boasted on Thursday before an audience of farmers that “we just opened up Europe for you farmers” but Juncker’s spokesperson disputed that interpretation.

Trump declares victory for farmers in trade spat with EU

President Donald Trump declared victory for American farmers Thursday (26 July) after brokering a ceasefire in a trade dispute with the European Union, but it is unclear how soon it will bring relief to those hurt by tit-for-tat tariffs.

Sectors in the EU and US have long resisted addressing the subsidies and trade barriers in their economies.

Made to reporters during a trip to Puerto Rico, Perdue’s comments echoed those of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin who insisted Sunday the leaders discussed “the need to break down the barriers on agriculture.”

The joint statement said Brussels and Washington would “work to reduce barriers and increase trade” in a range of products including soybeans.

Germany says US-Europe trade tensions ease, questions remain on soy

The trade relationship between the United States and Europe is improving, German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner said on Saturday (28 July), but there is no guarantee the bloc will buy the quantity of soybeans that Washington expects.

Perdue agreed Europe was likely to import more soybeans from the United States given the price differential with Brazilian grain but the agreement with Juncker went beyond that.

“But I also believe there was a commitment to try to enhance that even more maybe than normal market transactions would have precipitated,” Perdue said.

US farmers have been hard hit by China’s retaliatory tariffs on American exports, particularly soybeans, which have driven prices lower, prompting Trump’s team to announce $12 billion in aid for farmers.

With demand from China rising, the price for August soybean shipments from Paranagua, Brazil was $402.50 a ton on Monday, compared to $340 from Louisiana, the largest US soybean export port.

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