EU farm leaders set six-month target for free trade talks with Japan

Europe’s farmers want the EU to strike a free trade deal with Japan within the next six months, pointing out that it’s currently the second biggest export market for EU pork.

The call for a speeding up of free trade action was given to EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, during a recent meeting with the presidents of Copa & Cogeca, the European farm and farm cooperative organisations.

“We are starting to see signs of recovery on the EU dairy and pork markets, but they remain in a fragile state and it will take time for producers to recover their losses after such an unprecedented crisis,” said Copa president, Martin Merrild (pictured above).

While noting that the recovery was partly due to demand having picked up in China, plus European Commission progress in finding new export markets, he added that free trade agreements with Japan, Mexico and Indonesia could all benefit the EU market substantially. In relation to Japan, in particular, he urged the EU to complete a trade deal within the next six months.

As for the ongoing free trade talks with the USA (TTIP), Mr Merrild said Copa sees both opportunities and challenges on both sides of the Atlantic.

“I question, however, why there are so many protests on this in the EU when we do not know what would be in a potential deal”, he said. “For us, it’s important to lift non-trade barriers to trade as we see three-quarters of the gains to be had here (in the EU).”

Cogeca president Thomas Magnusson, for his part, focused on his organisation’s “serious concerns” about a potential free trade deal with the Latin American trade bloc Mercosur, saying it risks having a catastrophic impact especially on the EU beef and poultry sector.

Commissioner Malmstrom restricted herself to a brief response, stating merely that Copa & Cogeca’s concerns will be taken into account and that a “cumulative impact assessment on trade” is already in development and will be released later this autumn.

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