As the USMCA agreement was being signed by the President in Washington on Wednesday, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue was in Europe laying the groundwork for the next trade deal for U.S. agriculture.
Perdue has been in the Netherlands, Brussels, and Italy discussing the issues that are holding up a U.S./EU trade agreement. Speaking from Rome, Perdue said Sanitary and Phytosanitary issues are at the foreground, especially regarding the way the U.S. treats it meat exports, “We believe that the parasitic reduction method we use is safe and recognized as such world wide.” The Ag Secretary said the U.S. would be willing to reduce barriers on EU imports if the Europeans would do the same, “I think we are very close to resolving those SPS issues.”
Another thing preventing a U.S./EU deal is the issue of geographic identity. The EU feels that terms like Greek Yogurt and Swiss Cheese are trademarks and, thus, U.S. producers should have to pay a royalty for their use. Perdue says the U.S. does not agree. “We feel like they are generic in scope and have no basis in trademarks or those kind of things. They obviously feel differently,” Perdue said. The Secretary added he would not want to see any of these GI issues be part of any new trade agreement.
GMO technology and import tariffs are also the elephants in the room that, so far, have kept ag from being included in any trade deal. Perdue says the Trump administration believes ag must be part of any trade deal with Europe, “If we are going to have any kind of trade deal with the EU, then agriculture needs to be a part of it.”
Despite these issues, U.S. officials remain optimistic that a deal can be reached soon. “I was encouraged to see that the president of the EU and our president, President (Donald) Trump, were conversing and friendly regarding a ‘weeks, not months’ timeline on EU progress,” Perdue noted. President Trump has not ruled out using import tariffs on things like autos as a way to get an agreement.