EC farm committee balances ambition and caution in TTIP voting

The need to maintain “high food production and animal welfare standards” was highlighted during a key voting session in the European Commission (EC) agriculture committee on Tuesday concerning the EU’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US.

While remaining enthusiastic about achieving an “ambitious and mutually beneficial deal with the US”, committee members urged the EC to preserve the European agriculture model, safeguard EU food safety standards and protect EU quality products on the US market.

“There are opportunities for the EU in these negotiations with the US,” said UK MEP, James Nicholson. “Yes, we must maintain our high food production and animal welfare standards. We must also defend the sectors which may be vulnerable.

“However, it would be naive not to see the benefits of removing tariff barriers to EU products. We should not be inward looking, but instead be positive in exploring the opportunities to their fullest extent.”

At each point, however, the committee’s voting process balanced ambition with caution, urging the EC to:  

  • reach an ambitious and balanced result of negotiations and focus on key agricultural components, i.e. market access, geographical indications and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, at the early stage of talks to give parliament sufficient time to discuss these issues with citizens, civil society and farmers,
  • firmly commit to the strict preservation of EU standards in areas of food safety, consumer protection, human health, animal and plant health, animal welfare and environmental protection and to ensure that the enhancement of these standards is in no way hampered in the future,
  • secure a strong position for high quality European products so that EU producers can benefit from access to the US market and make sure that these products, including those bearing geographical indications, would enjoy appropriate legal protection in the US. Measures to deal with improper use, misleading information and practices and to ensure traceability, protection of the labelling and genuine origin of agricultural products, are essential elements of a balanced agreement,
  • preserve the European agricultural model and ensure its economic and social viability and consider all possible options, including tariff reduction and limited tariff rate quotas in cases when competition would expose EU producers, particularly small farmers, to excessive pressure, or if the unfair competition caused by diverging regulatory conditions leads to distortions.

The agriculture committee’s decisions will now be forwarded to the international trade committee, which is in charge of drafting the parliament’s position on the TTIP negotiations. 

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