he White House formally notified Congress of plans to begin trade talks with the European Union last week, but it appears there could already be trouble.
EU leaders don’t want to include their restrictions on genetically modified crops and other regulations that keep U.S. farm products out of Europe in the discussions.
President Obama says it’s difficult to imagine an agreement that doesn’t address those issues. That doesn’t necessarily mean the EU would end the restrictions. Some say it would be a victory if the EU clarified opaque rules and set timelines for considering products.
But the top EU trade negotiator has signaled they won’t even compromise, stating that a future deal will not change existing legislation. Other European officials say agricultural differences should be discussed after a major trade deal is completed.
French President Francois Hollande has called for excluding sensitive issues,including sanitary standards, from the talks. President Obama has suggested that could be a deal-breaker.
In a talk with his export council, the President said, there are certain countries whose agricultural sector is very strong, who tended to block at critical junctures the kinds of broad-based trade agreements that would make it a good deal for us.
If one of the areas where we’ve got the greatest comparative advantage is cordoned off from an overall trade deal, he continued, it’s very hard to get something going. But the President is optimistic, stating he believes the EU is hungrier for a deal than they have been in the past.