(Corrects first paragraph and first quote in paragraph 6 and 7
to comply with an official correction from Die Presse)
VIENNA, March 6 The European Union's regulation
on genetically modified food will not change even if Brussels
and Washington agree a free-trade agreement, EU Trade
Commissioner Karel De Gucht told an Austrian newspaper.
In an interview with Die Presse printed on Wednesday, he
also urged jetmakers Boeing and Airbus to end a
long-running dispute over subsidies and work together to fight
rising competition from China.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced plans to negotiate a
free trade agreement with the EU last month following more than
a year of preliminary talks between the two sides. Formal
negotiations are expected to begin by June.
The chairman of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee has warned
he will not support a deal unless the EU tears down barriers
that have long blocked U.S. farm exports.
Asked about European consumers' mistrust of U.S. food, De
Gucht said both sides would gain from a deal that would let
Europeans sell apples, pears and beef on U.S. markets.
However, he cautioned against any optimism that regulation
in Europe on genetically modified products might change.
"Currently 49 such genetically modified products have been
authorised on the European market, of which two are for
consumption by humans," he said. "However, there are strict
rules in place in Europe to authorise such GMOs, and these rules
will not change because of a free-trade agreement."
The paper earlier quoted him as saying: "As far as
genetically modified products go, they can and will be allowed."
De Gucht still needs to get a negotiating mandate from EU
members before talks can begin, but he said he could hardly
imagine any country blocking the start of negotiations.
Washington has long been frustrated by EU restrictions on
U.S. farm produce, such as foodstuffs made with genetically
modified organisms, poultry treated with chlorine washes and
meat from animals fed with the growth stimulant ractopamine.
Another tough issue unlikely to be resolved directly by the
EU-U.S. negotiation is the battle over subsidies for Europe's
Airbus and Boeing of the United States, the biggest and
longest-running dispute in the World Trade Organization's
De Gucht said it would be good to resolve the jetliner row
before U.S. trade talks commence.
"The longer this goes on the clearer one sees that both
sides are guilty," he said, adding the rivals should cooperate
to counter what is likely to be a highly subsidised large jet to
come from China.
"Europe and America still have a duopoly for large jets but
not for long. It would make more sense to put more resources
into joint research projects rather than fight one another," he
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Alison Birrane)