WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Historically a major market for U.S. feed grains, the E.U. in recent years has developed a web of non-tariff trade barriers that has greatly reduced U.S. market share, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) said on April 11. The current Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) initiative offers a welcome opportunity to address some of these longstanding concerns.

The USGC recently participated in the "U.S.-EU High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum" and will continue to be actively engaged in discussions to ensure that agricultural trade issues are constructively addressed in any T-TIP agreement.

Traditionally, U.S. corn represented the lion's share of E.U. corn imports until 1997-98, when U.S. corn exports fell dramatically to historically low levels. The sharp drop in U.S. exports coincided with the introduction of genetically modified (GM) varieties in the U.S. While the emergence of Black Sea/Former Soviet Union producers and the growth of the E.U.'s own production have contributed to the continued loss of market share, it is clear that regulatory impediments in biotech approvals are among the most significant current barriers to U.S. competitiveness in this region.

The E.U. biotech approval process is at best slow, and the E.U. system suffers from chronic backlogs and delays as the E.U. regularly misses its own administrative deadlines, USGC said.

Further, the E.U. will not even begin assessment of stacked events until each individual event has been separately approved, at which point an assessment of the stack must then begin all over again. The E.U.'s zero tolerance policy for unapproved events creates additional unpredictability due to the absence of a workable low level presence standard. These factors increase market risk, raise costs for E.U. consumers, and create arbitrary barriers to U.S. feed grains exports.

The goal of the T-TIP negotiations is a comprehensive, high standards agreement. The USGC is working to ensure that agricultural issues remain a high priority for U.S. negotiators, that risk assessments of GM events remain science based, and that the timeliness, transparency, and predictability of the approval process be improved to minimize uncertainty and the risk of trade disruption.