European agricultural organisation Copa-Cogeca said in a high-level meeting with US Secretary of State for Agriculture Tom Vilsack that there are many opportunities to be had in transatlantic trade talks, but more progress is needed on red tape and non-tariff barriers to trade.
The two sides were discussing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an ambitious trade project that has been subject to many rounds of negotiation between the US and EU.
They exchanged offers on market access in the TTIP talks with 97 per cent of tariff lines included.
But Copa-Cogeca said that the EU’s offer is "far more ambitious" than that of the US.
Speaking at the meeting, Copa President Martin Merrild insisted: “We see opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic from a potential agreement, as the USA is the first client for EU agri-food products worth 15 billion euros.
"But trade must be two way and non-tariff barriers to trade removed. In particular, we see some opportunities for EU wine, fruit and vegetables, butter and some cheeses, olive oil and processed meat exports in the talks. There is especially increased demand in the US right now for butter, in view of its recognised health benefits.
"But we need to lift the increased duties on EU butter and cream exports recently imposed by the US. It makes me question America’s commitment to free trade when it hits the EU dairy industry with higher duties on EU butter and cream exports.
"On top of this, we still cannot export any substantial volumes of beef to the USA – only two member states are authorised - even though the US authorities agreed to allow the export of European beef to the US market.
"A potential agreement will also be more challenging for the livestock sector – beef, poultry and pork - which have been classified as sensitive in the market access offers exchanged in October. The detailed offers will not however be finalised until the end of the negotiations and we need to see that they are not put at risk.”
Cogeca President Christian Pees went on to give examples of where non-tariff barriers and unnecessary obstacles to trade must be eliminated for the talks are to be a success.
“We need to see concrete proposals from the US here. For example, EU dairy producers face big obstacles when trying to market Grade A milk products in the US.
"EU cheeses are denied access to the US market because the label fails to use hairline, bars and bold type in an appropriate format. Hard cheeses, semi-soft cheeses and soft ripened cheeses have to wait 60 days before circulating on the US market.
"The main issue here appears to be the testing methods which are not the same on both sides of the Atlantic.
"In the fruit and vegetables sector, a limited number of products are allowed to enter the US market after going through a costly and unnecessarily burdensome pre-clearance procedure, such as apples and pears. This must be resolved.
"We also want to make sure that the EU’s high quality standards are not undermined – the EU’s ban on hormone treated meat must be respected, for example, as well as the EU system of geographical indications (GIs) which protects EU products from imitations.”
Geographical indications are widely expected to be a sticking point in the negotiations.