Negotiators wrapped up the latest round of talks to advance the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) last Friday.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman issued a brief release stating that the five days of trade talks were “productive” and that negotiations had “moved from discussing a conceptual framework to defining specific ideas for addressing the majority of the negotiating areas.”
Froman emphasized the transparency of the process, noting that officials “paused mid-round to interact directly with several hundred individuals at an open public forum during which a record number of stakeholders, including consumer, labor, and environmental representatives and members of the academic and agriculture community.” Formal presentations made by these groups and other such “conversations” with stakeholders Froman said, “contribute to the development of our policies and help steer our approach to these negotiations.”
Speaking at a press conference in Washington at the conclusion of talks, lead negotiators for the U.S. and EU addressed concerns raised by some consumer groups, namely that of food safety and fears expressed by European critics in particular that that the ambitious free trade pact could potentially erode current restrictions with respect to now-banned U.S. beef treated with hormones and tightly limited crops and foods from genetically modified seeds.
“We cannot envisage ... changing our food safety law as a result of the trade negotiations,” EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero said. “In no way can it (TTIP) compromise the levels of protection which are reflected in European Union or U.S. legislation.”
“There’s no intention of forcing the Europeans to eat anything that Europeans don’t want to eat — that’s not what this agreement is about,” said his U.S. counterpart, Dan Mullaney.
Bercero stressed the primary objective is to reduce barriers and costs to trade and investment that arise from unnecessary regulation and differences in industrial standards. In food safety, where Washington says it suffers from excessive European protections, the talks are focused in part on how to use science-based risk assessment to resolve differences.