* U.S.-EU hold fourth round of talks in Brussels this week
* GM crops, feta cheese are divisive issues in EU-U.S. trade
* Negotiators say they aim to finalise accord by the end of
By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS, March 12 Europe's reluctance to buy
hormone meat or genetically modified food from the United States
has exposed an "enormous gulf" that threatens the world's
biggest trade pact, industry and labour groups told EU and U.S.
negotiators on Wednesday.
Eight months into talks to create a transatlantic pact
encompassing almost half the world's economy, divisions remain
over opening up to each others goods, rules governing the names
of foods and genetically modified food.
"There is an enormous gulf between the EU and U.S.
positions," said Michael Dolan, a lobbyist for the U.S.
Teamsters union, who rejected the idea that the European Union
should be the only market to call Greek-style cheese 'feta'.
He warned that a trade deal "is likely to be smaller, more
modest than its ambitions, because of so many intractable
issues," telling negotiators in a forum also open to reporters.
Tensions over food, which have bedevilled many trade talks
around the world, risk eroding already fragile public support
for a deal that proponents say would increase economic growth by
around $100 billion a year on both sides of the Atlantic.
Negotiators aim to finalise a deal by the end of this year.
Mindful of the huge protests surrounding global trade talks
in the 1990s, EU and U.S. negotiators holding a fourth round of
talks this week in Brussels took the unusual step of not only
receiving lobbyists but also letting in the media.
What little awareness there is about the "Transatlantic
Trade and Investment Partnership" (TTIP) could be distorted by
anti-globalisation protesters, EU ministers have warned.
At risk is a pact creating a market of 800 million people
where business could be done freely, building on the almost $3
billion of transatlantic trade in goods and services each day.
Difficulties over agriculture bode poorly for the talks
because EU-U.S. negotiators are seeking a far more a
sophisticated agreement, going beyond farm goods to bring down
barriers across all industries and businesses.
Even animal welfare is sensitive in a proposed accord where
both sides would recognise each others standards to oil the
wheels of commerce. Europeans said they consider U.S. standards
concerning the slaughter of animals as being far lower than in
Even without such issues, U.S. farmers complain that the
farm trading relationship is unfairly skewed in Europe's favour
and want it addressed in the trade talks.
The European Union exported $16.6 billion of farm goods to
the United States in 2012, much more than the $9.9 billion that
U.S. farmers sent to Europe, partly because of EU rules banning
imports of genetically modified food for human consumption.
"Our trade could be way bigger," said Douglas Nelson, an
adviser for farm group CropLife America. Floyd Gaibler of the
U.S. Grains Council said: "The TTIP is a way to normalise trade
with the European Union."
But barely a week goes by that EU Trade Commissioner Karel
De Gucht, who handles commerce issues for the EU's 28 member
states, states that European regulation of genetically modified
food will not change even if a deal is done with Washington.
The European Union is also closed to U.S. beef from cattle
raised with growth hormones. Some Europeans are worried about
what impact GM crops and hormone beef - often dubbed
"Frankenstein Food" - might have on health and the environment.
"The United States and the European Union have the highest
standards of food safety. How is it that we have such different
ideas about how to achieve those standards?" said John Brook,
regional director of the U.S. Meat Exports Federation.
"Have you ever heard about a European on holiday in the U.S.
not eating meat? Everyone raves about the experience of eating
in a U.S. steak house," he said.