By Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor
OMAHA (DTN) -- Trade talks between the U.S. and the European Union will officially begin early next month, but President Barack Obama and EU leaders took time Monday at the beginning of the G-8 talks to highlight the potential of the trade pact.
President Obama, England Prime Minister David Cameron and European Union officials held a press event Monday in Northern Ireland to discuss the trade talks with the opening round of negotiations to begin the week of July 8 in Washington.
The negotiations are officially called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP. The Obama administration will begin these talks with the EU while continuing talks with Asian countries on the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) as well.
U.S. agricultural groups will be watching the T-TIP talks closely due to the European Union's resistance to biotech crop approvals and restrictions on U.S. meat imports because of hormone therapy. Some European leaders have already indicated any changes to EU policy on biotech crops are off the table, yet those complaints are being dismissed.
In a statement Monday, American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman specifically raised some of those concerns, saying the talks hold the promise for better, more science-based regulations in European markets.
"The misuse of sanitary and phytosanitary standards, including the EU's restrictions on genetically-engineered crops, has long been a tactic to impede trade. We will look closely to these negotiations to move past this trade distorting tactic and fully embrace a rules-based trading system with standards based upon scientific assessment," Stallman said.
Stallman added, "Farmers and ranchers have been frustrated over the seemingly endless array of non-tariff barriers Europe applies to many of our agricultural commodities and products. We expect the T-TIP to be a high-standard, comprehensive agreement that covers all significant barriers to U.S. and EU agricultural trade. We are cautiously hopeful that these negotiations will yield positive results for U.S. agriculture."
The White House released some promotional material on the trade deal Monday as well. The fact sheet noted the goal is to eliminate tariffs, as well as "tackle costly 'behind the border' non-tariff barriers that impede the flow of goods, including agricultural goods."
In Ireland, Cameron said the trade agreement, if finalized, could add $157 billion to the EU economy, $125 billion to the U.S. economy and $133 billion to other economies around the world. Cameron said it would be one of the biggest trade deals in history.
"And we should be clear about what these numbers could really mean: 2 million extra jobs, more choice and lower prices in our shops," Cameron said. "We're talking about what could be the biggest bilateral trade deal in history; a deal that will have a greater impact than all the other trade deals on the table put together."
Obama reiterated the U.S.-EU trade relationship is already the largest in the world with the two economies making up nearly half the global gross domestic product and trading roughly $1 trillion in goods annually.
"So I'm pleased to hear that this negotiation enjoys the support not only of the countries that are here today, but also the broader EU membership," Obama said. "I can tell you that it has been warmly received in the United States as well, both in our Congress and in our business community."
Obama noted there will be difficult issues to debate on both sides of the talks, but he said the negotiations will be a priority for the administration. "There are going to be politics on both sides. But if we can look beyond the narrow concerns to stay focused on the big picture -- the economic and strategic importance of this partnership -- I'm hopeful we can achieve the kind of high-standard, comprehensive agreement that the global trading system is looking to us to develop."
Jose Manuel Barraso, president of the European Commission, said that given the way global markets are integrated, removing remaining trade barriers is in everyone's interests. Yet, Barraso also acknowledged there will be challenges in the talks due to situations such as different regulatory regimes.
"We will find solutions to thorny issues," Barraso said. "We will keep our eyes on the prize, and we'll succeed. So even if these negotiations may not always be easy, I'm sure they will be worth it for the sake of the jobs it creates and because of the strategic dimension of what we are doing -- to write the next chapter of what is our common history also forged by the sense that we share the same principles and values, the principles and values of open economies and open societies."
Chris Clayton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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