* EU drops objections to some U.S. farm imports
* Measures meant to generate confidence for EU-U.S. talks
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS, Feb 4 The European Union dropped its
ban on some U.S. meat imports on Monday in a gesture aimed at
starting talks on a free-trade pact that would encompass about
half the world's economic output.
Brussels and Washington want to deepen a relationship that
accounts for a third of global trade, and ending the EU import
ban on live pigs and beef washed in lactic acid is meant to show
the Europeans are serious about a deal.
The ban will be lifted from Feb. 25, dropping European
objections that were based on differing hygiene and husbandry
methods in meat production. U.S. farmers have long regarded
these concerns as unscientific.
The EU may also consider easing restrictions on imports of
U.S. animal fat, known as tallow, used in biofuels.
"The United States had certain preconditions for talks to
start. We want to show them that Europe can deliver," said a
senior EU diplomat involved in preparing for negotiations.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will travel to
Washington on Tuesday to put the finishing touches to a joint
EU-U.S. report that is expected to recommend going ahead with
free trade negotiations.
De Gucht told Reuters last month these will be "difficult
negotiations". However, Europe and the United
States both seek an economic boost after meagre growth since the
global crisis of 2008/2009.
Import tariffs between the European Union and the United
States are already low, and the real benefit would come from
increased access to each other's markets, as well as common
regulations that would remove the high costs that smaller
companies face if they want to export beyond their borders.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told U.S. Vice-President Joe
Biden last week in Berlin that she saw "positive signs" in the
push for talks.
A deal could increase Europe's economic output by 65 billion
euros ($88 billion) a year, a 0.5 percent rise in the EU's gross
domestic product, the European Commission calculates.
However, Washington is worried about getting caught up in
endless negotiations with the 27-nation bloc.
No date has yet been set for the release of the joint
EU-U.S. report on the viability of trade talks, initially
expected by the end of last year, generating some concern among
European and U.S. companies who support the deal.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)