(Corrects first paragraph and first quote in paragraph 6 and 7 to comply with an official correction from Die Presse)
VIENNA, March 6 (Reuters) - 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 history.
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 said. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Alison Birrane)