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Organic Consumers Association

Agricultural Spats Already Sparking Tension, as US, EU Prepare for Massive Trade-Deal Talks

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Millions Against Monsanto page and our Genetic Engineering page.

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama used Washington's grandest stage - the State of the Union speech - to announce negotiations with Europe aimed at creating the world's largest free trade agreement. Just weeks later, there are signs that old agriculture disputes could be deal-killers.

European Union leaders don't want the negotiations to include discussions on their restrictions on genetically modified crops and other regulations that keep U.S. farm products out of Europe. But Obama says it's hard to imagine an agreement that doesn't address those issues. Powerful U.S. agricultural lobbies will do their best to make sure Congress rejects any pact that fails to address the restrictions.

"Any free trade agreement that doesn't cover agriculture is in trouble," said Cathleen Enright, executive vice president at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which promotes biotechnology, including genetically modified products.

That would threaten the dream of a behemoth free trade deal between the world's two largest trading partners that together account for more than half of the world economy. It would lower tariffs and remove other trade barriers for most industries. Some analysts say the deal could boost each economy by more than a half-percentage point annually and significantly lower the cost of goods and services for consumers.

Agricultural issues have long bedeviled attempts to expand free trade across the Atlantic and have led each side to file complaints against the other before the World Trade Organization, an arbitrator in trade disputes. While the U.S. protests EU restrictions, Europeans want the U.S. to reduce agricultural subsidies. 


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