Governor Ricketts, Delegation Discuss Trade Policy with EU Commission Officials
BRUSSELS, Belgium – Governor Pete Ricketts and members of the Nebraska trade team spent part of the last two days highlighting trade policy issues with key European Union (EU) Commission representatives in Brussels. The discussions focused on agricultural regulations and policies in the United States and the EU, and their roles in ongoing, national-level trade agreement talks.
“The EU Commission representatives we met with expressed appreciation for the opportunity to hear directly from farmers, agribusinesses and our state leadership,” Gov. Ricketts said. “Our team is very versed on key issues with the EU, such as new innovations, beef quotas and development of T-TIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). This type of dialogue goes a long way toward sound policy development.”
United States trade officials have been diligently working to get a final T-TIP agreement with the European Union. Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach said the agreement is critical in creating an export environment that does not unfairly restrict U.S. companies delivering goods to Europe and other countries in the T-TIP partnership. He said the timing of the trade team visit is ideal and shows EU officials the level of importance agricultural states like Nebraska place on exports.
“Having been involved with trade policy discussion throughout my career, I have seen firsthand how important it is to establish relationships where you can talk to policy leaders from a practical standpoint. They like to hear first-hand how we do things on our farms and ranches in Nebraska,” Ibach said. “It provides perspective that can be helpful as they discuss with their colleagues modification and or elimination of restrictions that prohibit fair trade.”
The trade team met with Phil Hogan, EU commissioner for agriculture and rural development, and with Arunas Vincionus, chief of staff for the EU commissioner of health and food safety. In addition, the group met with leadership of Copa and Cogeca, which are organizations representing EU farmers and farm cooperatives.
Ibach said among other subjects, talks at all three stops included discussion of recent GMO policy activity within the EU member countries. This issue is of critical importance to Nebraska, where the majority of soybeans and corn grown have some level of genetic modification.
“We currently export over 50 percent of the U.S. soybean crop each year and almost all of those beans are GMOs,” said Steve Wellman, a member of the delegation who is a soybean farmer from Syracuse and a director on the American Soybean Association Board. “Trade missions like this give farmers like me the opportunity to discuss our usage of GMOs and explain that the technology has been proven time and time again to be valuable from an environmental standpoint and totally safe.”
Nebraska exported roughly $900 million worth of goods to European Union countries in 2014, with agricultural goods constituting about half of that figure. Key general exports include machinery, pharmaceuticals, and medicines. Leading agricultural exports include beef, soybeans and soymeal, and other feeds/fodders.
“Beef and soybeans are already key agriculture exports to the EU,” said Governor Ricketts, “but there is a great opportunity to further develop that marketplace with policy changes. We feel that by opening discussions on such topics, we can come to reasonable and fair compromises that benefit both sides of a trade partnership.”
The Nebraska Trade Mission continues through early next week with a stop in Denmark next on the agenda.