MEP Outlines Benefits, Challenges Facing EU Agriculture in TTIP Talks
Bulgarian MEP Momchil Nekov (S&D) presented the opportunities and challenges facing EU agriculture in the framework of the TTIP negotiations at a conference, which was held in the House of Europe in Sofia on Friday.
Nekov is a substitute member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, which is one of the fifteen European Parliament (EP) committees involved in the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
According to him, the TTIP is important both for the EU and the USA and although agriculture represents only 5 % of TTIP, it affects consumers directly.
He highlighted the importance of the EP in the negotiation process as it is the only directly elected EU institution giving it the right to exercise democratic control.
The MEP pointed to the power demonstrated by the EP in previous negotiations, such as the rejection of the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
Nekov said that trade in agriculture between the EU and the USA, amounting to EUR 24 B, represents 5 % of overall bilateral trade.
According to the data, 16 % of EU’s agricultural exports are destined to the USA, while 8 % of EU’s agricultural imports originate from the USA with a tendency to decrease.
As the USA applies lower duties for EU imports than the EU does for US imports, this means that US market is more competitive than the European one.
According to estimates, in case TTIP is concluded and agriculture is included in it, the EU will benefit the most in sectors such as red and white meat, dairy and grain products.
In case TTIP is concluded, it is estimated that the volume of EU’s agricultural exports to the USA will be USD 13 B, while that of US exports to the EU will be USD 27 B.
It is foreseen that with the adoption of the TTIP, European agriculture will shrink by 0.5 %, while that of the USA will expand by 0.4 %.
In the long term, estimates are that the EU will lose 700 000 jobs, while the USA will gain 500 000 in all sectors of the economy.
Nevertheless, the TTIP will bring some benefits to the EU, as it will provide access to a market of 300 million US citizens, who appreciate the high quality European goods.
However there are more risks to the EU and Bulgaria seems to be particularly vulnerable as the US sectors are more competitive than the European ones.
Furthermore, Bulgaria, which has lost old markets and is entering new ones, has not achieved the integration level of the Western European member states.
Thus, Bulgaria risks being faced with double competition – both from its European partners and the US competitors.
Another shortcoming is that the EU risks lowering its high standards in food production and food safety in order to be more competitive.
The EU faces the challenge of preventing the import of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and products treated with substances stimulating growth.
Nekov pointed that one possible way for European and Bulgarian agriculture to become more competitive, while maintaining its high standards, is through the increased reliance on products with geographical indications.
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