Food and Agriculture/SPS


The BCTT Food and Agriculture Working Group represent a broad cross-section of U.S. agricultural companies and associations promoting trade in commodities, foods and fiber.  The health and long-term sustainability of U.S. agriculture is increasingly dependent on access to foreign markets.  The TTIP negotiations present an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate import tariffs and quotas, illegitimate sanitary, phytosanitary and technical barriers to trade and promote science-based decision making and standards as the bases for international trade in agricultural and food products.

Why Food and Agricultural Trade Matters

Combined agricultural and food trade between the U.S. and the EU was $21.5 billion in 2013.  It has the potential to be much larger considering the size of the two economies.

The U.S. and the EU are primary actors in international health and food safety standard-setting bodies, including the OIE, Codex and IPPC.  Any health or food safety-related agreements reached during the course of the TTIP negotiations will have a measurable impact on these bodies.

The TTIP negotiations offer an ideal vehicle to develop new trade facilitative mechanisms that reduce the risk of unnecessary loss to perishable goods and can be used as a model for future multilateral trade negotiations.

Principles and Objectives for the TTIP Negotiations

The key principles and objectives for the US food and agricultural sectors for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations on food and agriculture, including sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and technical barriers to trade (TBTs), are as follows:

  • The negotiations must be comprehensive to include all aspects of trade and investment.  “Everything is on the table” with no exclusions, especially for food and agricultural products.   TTIP negotiations must be a “single undertaking”. This means no early harvest or separate deals that do not liberalize agricultural trade and eliminate illegitimate SPS and TBT barriers concurrently with all sectors.
  • Elimination of all European Union import duties and tariff-rate quotas (TRQs).  This elimination of tariffs and TRQs on U.S. food and agricultural exports will be completed in the shortest possible period of time, but no later than the end of the negotiated transition period.  Transition periods must have commercially meaningful timeframes, which should be short and not back-loaded.
    • Eliminate antidumping on all food and agricultural products once the tariff on those products reaches zero.  Past experience with NAFTA indicates that antidumping has been a major barrier to trade within that FTA even after tariffs end.
  • Science-based decision making and not the precautionary principle must be the defining principle in setting up mechanisms and systems that will address both today’s SPS barriers and those of the future.  This could include internationally-recognized standards established by the Codex Alimentarius, the World Organization for Animal Health and the International Plant Protection Convention.
  • Removal of unjustified nontariff barriers, including SPS and TBT measures used to block food and agricultural trade, and the development of effective mechanisms to prevent the introduction of new, unjustified barriers to trade.  To this end, inclusion of risk-based scientific decision making, regulatory convergence and equivalence/systems recognition is critically important.
    •  Negotiations must not only encompass the current nontariff barriers to trade, but also put in place a mechanism for quick, science-based, WTO-consistent resolution of trade problems resulting from the introduction of future nontariff barriers.
    • New SPS disciplines based on the scientific principles and agreed-upon interpretations of the WTO SPS Agreement. The TTIP SPS provisions should build upon and enhance the WTO agreement to address specific and systemic SPS trade barriers in the EU.
      • Strengthen and elaborate requirements regarding risk assessment and risk management.
      • Require parties to provide an adequate grace period before implementing new, non-emergency measures.
      • Reinforce the WTO rule that requires regulators to select the least-trade-restrictive of available risk management options.
      • Develop agreed-upon lab testing protocols to enhance border predictability.
      • Enhance transparency through timely notification of all new measures, sharing of data and rationale for positions, adequate comment and consultation periods and increasing use of technology to expedite discussions.
    • Effective U.S.-EU regulatory cooperation on a WTO-consistent basis.  That includes key SPS provisions such as science-based risk assessments, harmonization, adoption of internationally-agreed standards, and recognition of systems-based approaches including equivalence.
  • Full and timely implementation and enforcement of all agricultural-related provisions, including SPS and TBT provisions. Obligations that go beyond the WTO must also be subject to TTIP enforcement provisions.
    • This is critical if the TTIP is to achieve meaningful and reliable market opening.  Absent an enforcement mechanism, any new rules or market concessions that build upon existing WTO commitments will be ineffective and unreliable.
  • Establishment of a Rapid Response Mechanism to provide for shipment-specific trade facilitation that would address frustration of trade as a result of implementation of SPS and TBT measures. 
    • The RRM would make the consultation and oversight process work more effectively so that industry and consumers do not wait an unnecessary period of time for governments to resolve SPS or TBT disputes.
    • Key elements of the RRM are: a) swift private sector notification of shipment issues; and b) non-binding and publicly released expert review of issue.

For more information about this working group, please contact –

Bill Westman, American Meat Institute (AMI)

Gary Martin, North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA)

Garrett Workman, U.S. Chamber of Commerce