ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, U.S. — The American Soybean Association (ASA) on April 16 expressed its disappointment with the European Union’s decision to vote on a mandate to move forward with an E.U.-U.S. Free Trade Agreement that excludes agriculture.

The E.U. is a key market for U.S. food exports, including soybeans. Soybean exports to the E.U. in 2017 were valued at approximately $1.6 billion, the ASA said.

“We had high hopes that some of the longstanding concerns regarding the E.U.’s policies on agricultural biotechnology and on revising the E.U.’s pesticide laws would be addressed,” said Davie Stephens, Kentucky soy grower and president of the ASA. “With the E.U. now formally excluding ag, it will be difficult if not impossible to address these non-tariff barriers that severely inhibit trade between our countries.”

In making its decision to exclude agriculture, the E.U. noted that past efforts with the United States “have demonstrated difficulties in negotiating mutually acceptable commitments in areas identified as priorities by the Union.”

“It is therefore appropriate to pursue with the United States a more limited agreement covering the elimination of tariffs on industrial products only, and excluding agricultural products,” the E.U. said.

The ASA said the E.U.’s current and proposed regulatory approaches lack alignment with Codex Alimentarius, which is the foundation of internationally-accepted standards and guidance. The association also said the E.U.’s approach is based on hazard rather than risk-based assessments, and represents barriers to trade.

The ASA has urged the United States to push back on the E.U. and insist the ag issues are addressed either in the context of a free trade agreement or through bilateral discussions.