In a joint statement issued Wednesday, President Barack Obama, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced that the U.S. and the European Union would begin the "internal procedures" necessary to launch a Transatlantic trade partnership.
"The transatlantic economic relationship is already the world's largest, accounting for half of global economic output and nearly one trillion dollars in goods and services trade, and supporting millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic," the leaders said.
President Obama noted that the U.S. and EU were ready to start negotiations on Tuesday night during his State of the Union address, preceding the official announcement Wednesday.
"A high-standard Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would advance trade and investment liberalization and address regulatory and other non-tariff barriers," the joint statement said. "Through this negotiation, the United States and the European Union will have the opportunity not only to expand trade and investment across the Atlantic, but also to contribute to the development of global rules that can strengthen the multilateral trading system."
Dairy groups ready for action
The National Milk Producers Federation and the U.S. Dairy Export Council issued a joint statement of support Wednesday, explaining that trade with the EU could provide outlets dairy exports and address a broad range of bilateral trade and investment matters, including regulatory issues.
"NMPF believes that considerable potential exists for greater U.S. dairy exports to the EU, if the Transatlantic agreement effectively tackles not only market access issues but also the many nontariff barriers that have made it challenging for the United States to make more headway into the European dairy market," said Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of NMPF.
USDEC President Tom Suber said the many tariff and regulatory hurdles in the EU have limited dairy exports, and highlighted the EU's current dairy trade surplus with the U.S. of $1.2 billion.
Among the trade issues unrelated to food safety the dairy industry notes are somatic cell count limits, mandates related to certificate dating and bans on the use of generic food names.
Resolve all issues before moving ahead
Though optimistic about the potential for U.S.-EU trade, dairy groups warn that the opportunity for trade talks should include removing existing barriers and barriers "that seem to be brewing within the EU to ensure they do not grow into tomorrow’s blockades against U.S. dairy products."
"If the EU wants access to our dairy market and wants us to consider regulatory changes to our system, which is based on sound science, the burden is certainly on them to demonstrate that this is a two-way street and that our concerns have been fully resolved given the EU's track record in this area," Kozak added.