DAILY NEWS Dec 28, 2013 12:50 PM - 0 comments

Food hurdles block Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks

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BRUSSELS, Belg. and WASHINGTON, D.C.--The largest free-trade deal in the world, between the US and Europe, could be blocked by food issues as the main obstacle, according to a Reuters report.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks between Brussels and Washington continue to be stymied by questions over genetically modified (GM) crops, chlorine-washed chicken, beef quotas and whether only original producers can legally market Champagne, Parma ham or Feta cheese, the report said.

EU-US free-trade negotiators seeking to integrate two markets who represent almost half the world's economy, have found themselves obstructed by agricultural lobbies howling for protection or its abolition.

The recent EU-Canada free-trade deal, known as CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) was bogged down for months before Brussels agreed to allow in 45,000 more tonnes of Canadian beef and 75,000 more tonnes of pork tariff free a year.

It is only a fraction of the EU's 7.7 million tonnes of beef and 20 million tonnes of pork, but high-value Canadian imports cut into sales of French and Irish producers - and a US deal stands to cut in more.

Europe is also wary of genetically modified food, and has many complex and time-consuming procedures to examine new practices, which angers American farm lobbies, the report said.

Americans say Europeans need not change its rules, but consider whether it is necessary to label GM produce as such, and speed up approvals.

Some 74 GM products were awaiting EU clearance at the end of 2012, with authorisation taking almost four years, compared with two years in the United States.

The US said it would be willing to comply with international standards for the prevention of mad cow disease, which would re-open a market closed to EU beef since 1998.

The EU has lifted bans on imports of US beef washed with lactic acid and of live swine. The US poultry industry wants the EU to accept chickens washed with chlorine.

But the United States also has its bans, such as raw-milk cheese that is not aged for at least 60 days, barring some French cheeses, such as blue-veined Roquefort. Some EU sausages cannot access the US market because of a zero tolerance to listeria in fermented meat products, said Reuters.

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