“These requirements are non-tariff trade barriers that violate WTO obligations and will result in significant losses to the U.S. food and agriculture industry,” says ASA President Ron Heck, a soybean producer from Perry, IA. “ASA is urging United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Zoellick to take action to prevent further disruption of U.S. agricultural commodity and food product exports to the European Union resulting from these regulations.”
The new regulations, published on Oct. 18, 2003, in the Official Journal of the European Union, clearly violate the EU’s WTO obligations. The Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreements require that import restrictions not discriminate between imported and domestic products and not be overly restrictive to trade. The SPS agreement also requires that any measures that have the effect of restricting trade must be based on scientific principles.
“The new EU regulations are not consistent with these provisions and clearly discriminate against imported products,” Heck says. “In addition, the requirements would set a precedent for process-based traceability and labeling that could create potentially insurmountable technical barriers to trade, and discourage adoption and acceptance of new technologies, including biotechnology, around the globe.”
The products of modern biotechnology already must undergo intensive scientific and regulatory review before being approved to enter the EU market, and the EU has not identified any science-based risks associated with approved biotech products. Despite this, the regulations use the "Precautionary Principle" and other non-science based factors to justify the implementation of costly and trade-restrictive traceability and labeling requirements.
"The United States Government consistently has opposed the use of such criteria for restricting trade and must rigorously challenge EU regulations that embody these concepts," Heck says. "Soybean producers believe the Bush Administration must challenge the EU’s new regulations in anticipation that other countries will come under pressure from the EU and activist groups to adopt similar requirements and restrictions."
ASA is also concerned that if left unchallenged, the EU requirements will influence international organizations, such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission, to adopt similar requirements as global standards that will negatively affect U.S. agricultural commodity and food exports.
ASA is urging USTR to initiate a review by the International Trade Commission of the impact these requirements will have on U.S. agricultural commodity and food exports to quantify economic losses to U.S. farmers, exporters, and food companies.
In the marketing year that ended August 31, 2003, the United States exported 209 million bushels (5.7 million metric tons) of soybeans to the EU, which was 27 percent below the previous year when exports totaled 286 million bushels (7.8 million metric tons). ASA estimates that the EU’s biotech policies have already damaged U.S. soybean exports largely as a result of apprehension among trade customers about implementation of the new requirements for labeling and traceability.