The American Soybean Association (ASA) said on 16 April that it was disappointed the EU had voted to move forward in negotiating an EU-US Free Trade Agreement that excluded agriculture.

“The EU is a critically important market for US food exports, including soybeans,” the ASA said. “Soyabeans exported to the EU in 2017 were valued at US$1.6bn.”

“We had high hopes that some of the longstanding concerns regarding the EU’s policies on agricultural biotechnology and on revising the EU’s pesticide laws would be addressed,” said ASA president Davie Stephens. “With the EU now formally excluding agriculture, it will be difficult if not impossible to address these non-tariff barriers that severely inhibit trade between our countries.”

The European Commission (EC) said on 15 April that two directives approved by EU members gave it the green light to begin formal negotiations on agreements relating to conformity assessment and eliminating tariffs on industrial products.

EC President Jean-Claude Juncker said slashing tariffs on industrial products could lead to an additional increase in EU and US exports worth around US$29.3bn.

A conformity assessment would make it easier for companies to prove their products met technical requirements in either the EU or USA, according to American Shipper.

In making its decision to exclude agriculture, the EU noted that past efforts with the USA “have demonstrated difficulties in negotiating mutually acceptable commitments in areas identified as priorities by the Union,” World Grain reported.

“It is therefore appropriate to pursue a more limited agreement covering the elimination of tariffs on industrial products only, and excluding agricultural products,” the EU said.

The ASA urged the US government to insist that agriculture issues were addressed either in the context of a free trade agreement or through bilateral discussions, World Grain said.