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Statement by Ambassador Michael Punke at the WTO Trade Policy Review of the European Union

Statement by Ambassador Michael Punke at the WTO Trade Policy Review of the European Union

World Trade Organization
Geneva, Switzerland
July 16, 2013

*As Prepared for Delivery*

Thank you, Chair. We would like to welcome Deputy Director General Peter Balas, Ambassador Pangratis, and the entire delegation back to Geneva for the eleventh review of the trade policies and practices of the European Union (EU). We thank the EU delegation for its thorough submission. We would also like to thank the Secretariat for its informative report, and the discussant, Ambassador Yeend, for his insightful comments.

This is an exciting and well-timed occasion for this exchange with our EU colleagues, given the recent conclusion of the first round of negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement, or “TTIP.” The United States government values its trade and economic relationship with the EU immensely; trade between our economies accounts for nearly half of global GDP and 30 percent of global trade. Every day, goods and services worth nearly $3 billion are traded across the Atlantic. Our investment relationship reached nearly $4 trillion in 2011. More than $9 million is traded between us every five minutes.

Even so, we believe that the U.S.-EU economic relationship can be an even more productive source of trade, jobs, and growth. That conviction prompted U.S. and EU leaders to launch the TTIP negotiations.

The United States and other WTO Members have also benefitted from the EU’s strong support, over many decades, for a rules-based multilateral trading system and for the steady reduction of barriers in successive rounds of multilateral trade negotiations. We and the EU believe that the TTIP can complement and enhance the trade liberalization that has occurred within the multilateral trading system.

We are pleased to note that most of our bilateral trade with the EU is unimpeded by significant trade barriers, and that the disagreements that we sometimes have on certain bilateral or multilateral issues do not interfere with our extensive cooperation on other issues.

We have concerns, however, with EU trade and investment policies in several areas. I would briefly like to highlight several of these concerns, many of which we have previously raised both in this forum and other bilateral and multilateral interactions.

First, the EU’s barriers to our agricultural exports remain a significant concern, both with respect to high tariff protection and non-tariff barriers, including sanitary and phytosanitary measures that are not based on science or risk assessment. For example, the EU prohibits the use of ractopamine in livestock production even though the EU has failed to put forward a valid risk assessment or compelling scientific evidence to support its measure and despite the existence of a relevant international standard setting maximum residue levels for beef and pork products. The EU also continues to restrict the importation and marketing of certain agricultural biotechnology products resulting in significant disruptions of trade. Because of these and other barriers, U.S. agricultural exporters have been unable to take full advantage of the market access obligations agreed to by the EU during the Uruguay Round.

Second, other non-tariff barriers remain some of the most significant barriers to U.S. exports to the European Union. As we have consistently noted in the WTO TBT Committee, the United States has broad concerns about the EU’s policies and procedures to develop and implement technical regulations, standards and conformity assessment, as well as concerns about specific measures that affect a wide range of U.S. exporters in many sectors, including chemicals and wine.

The EU’s regulatory and legislative processes also do not typically provide essential and meaningful opportunity for WTO Members and their stakeholders to comment on regulatory proposals. Further, we have concerns regarding the apparent lack of mechanisms to ensure that stakeholder comments will be taken into account in final regulations. Our experience has been that internal deliberations within the Commission and among EU member states on draft regulatory proposals progress much too far before trading partners and their stakeholders can provide views on the proposed text. As a result, by the time the EU considers these views, it is often too late to influence the character of the regulatory proposal, even on matters that have enormous trade implications.

Next, with respect to specific sectoral concerns, we have asked the EU to clarify its approach to setting maximum residue limits for plant protection on products for which a registration is temporarily or permanently suspended on the basis of a specific hazard criterion.

In addition, as we have noted in the WTO Antidumping Committee, we remain disappointed with the manner in which the EU conducted its investigation into U.S. bioethanol exports, which resulted in the imposition of antidumping duties. The United States has raised a number of significant procedural and methodological issues during and after the investigation. These issues continue to raise concerns under the WTO Antidumping Agreement.

We would also like to reiterate our longstanding concern regarding the EU’s subsidization of its fishing fleet and the impact the resulting excess capacity has on overfished fish stocks in both EU and international waters. We understand the EU is currently undertaking reform efforts of its Common Fisheries Policy. We urge the EU to enact real reform of its fisheries subsidies policies to complement its robust fisheries management practices.

Finally, inconsistent implementation of internal market rules continues to constrain trade for EU and foreign producers alike. We applaud the European Commission’s efforts to eliminate lingering internal barriers to the free flow of goods and look forward to hearing how the EU intends to address remaining barriers – including those that are not scientifically justified – to the free flow of goods at the EU and member state levels.

We would like to thank the EU for providing answers to our written questions. We sought to address matters that we consider particularly important and for which we were unable to obtain answers independently. We hope that others will consider following the same approach in the future for all Members’ TPRs.

In closing, the United States welcomes this opportunity and is hopeful that our exchanges during this TPR will provide some perspective on ways that the EU’s trade policy can help expand the benefits we have all gained from our trade with Member countries of the European Union.

Thank you.