TTIP Will Open Stagnant EU Markets

USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse speaks about 
 progress on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

 Photo by John LaRose

Scuse Encourages Support For TTIP In Lithuania And Romania

MidAmerica Farmer Grower

   While conducting a recent USDA trade mission to Eastern Europe, USDA Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse took time to work further on completing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Lithuanian and Romanian officials.
   “We started last week in Lithuania with just government-to-government meetings, starting first with U.S. Ambassador Deborah McCarthy,” Scuse said. “We had a really good visit with her, her team and Foreign Agriculture Service personal to get a rundown of Lithuania, what the expectations were, where they were and their viewpoints on some of the issues, especially when it came to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”
   Following that, Scuse met with Algirdas Butkevicius, Lithuania Prime Minister and spoke at length about the TTIP. Scuse stressed the need for Lithuania to become more involved in removing some of the barriers that had been on the table for some time. “We did ask Lithuania to take a leadership role and help us move with this so that we can get the TTIP concluded before the end of the year,” Scuse reported. “After that, I had a meeting with Virginija Baltraitiene, Minister of Agriculture and again we discussed the TTIP and the need for a leadership role from the Prime Minister and Minister. We also discussed some of the agricultural issues between our two countries.” Later Scuse met with Raimuadas Karoblis, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.”
   While in Romania, Deputy Secretary Scuse had meetings to discuss U.S. and Romania trade issue and TTIP, with Deputy Prime Minister Costin Borc of Romania, and Achim Irimescu, Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
   One important part of the trip is in the fact that Lithuania and Romania support the TTIP more strongly than some of the other EU countries. They also show more support for the United States in getting this done. “So it was important to meet with them and communicate to them that we really do need to work to conclude these negotiations this year,” Scuse said. Scuse feels strongly that it is possible to complete this agreement in 2016. 
   “If everyone works in earnest in the negotiations and everyone comes to the table with the idea that we’re going to get this done, I think it can be completed,” he said. “I think the issues, the major sticking points can be resolved, but it’s just getting the right people to the table to work on the details. So I’m optimistic that we’re going to be able to get this done this year.”
   The TTIP is expected to open some additional markets in the European Union for American farmers. “Our trade with the European Union the last few years is stagnant,” he pointed out. “The 28 member countries of the European Union (now reduced to 27 countries with the recent withdrawal of the UK) collectively are only our fifth largest trading partner; and when you look at the population, the GDP, they should be much higher in agricultural trade than they currently are. I think getting the TTIP concluded will be a big benefit for American Agriculture, but I think it’s going to also be a benefit for the European Union once we break down some of these barriers.”
   Scuse reported strong support for TTIP in Lithuania and Romania, both of which are members of the EU. “They would like very much to see this done, I think they understand the need to conclude this as quickly as possible and they’re hoping also to have this completed by the end of the year. These countries have strongly supported TTIP. In most cases, they don’t express the same concerns the other countries have on some of the issues.”
   While there is less controversy in Lithuania and Romania, countries like France and Germany express demands for geographical indicator protections for certain food products such as Parmesan cheese. Scuse stated that Secretary Tom Vilsack has been engaged with his counterparts in the other EU member countries, as has U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and the team at USTR. ∆
   JOHN M. LAROSE: Publisher MidAmerica Farmer Grower
   BETTY VALLE GEGG-NAEGER: Senior Staff Writer, MidAmerica Farmer Grower
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