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By Staff | Jul 4, 2014

I have yet to read what I believe to be an honest assessment of the current state of trade negotiations between the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, U.S.-European Union trade talks.

I have not heard any U.S. trade official tell them to quit wasting all of our time if they intend to keep using the “precautionary principle” instead of science to determine what trade they can regulate.

U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack was meeting with EU counterparts and he should have just as well conveyed that message. At the very least there ought to be an expiration date on the precautionary principle where after an extended period of time when no risk is discerned then the caution is no longer warranted and it goes away.

Europe has banned U.S. meat and grain over content and practices considered safe in the U.S., without any science-based risk being determined to exist on the pretense that something may later be discovered.

The U.S. policy has been that current science is used to determine risks while Europe can essentially make up trade barriers on any whim or innuendo on the basis of the precautionary principle. I don’t see any pretext where trade liberalization can move forward under this protocol.

I have not heard the Obama administration tell them flat-out that until the precautionary principle is replaced with sound science, there can be no deal.

There are other smaller issues such as regional trade-marking that would have to be worked out. They think they own the terms “Bologna” and “Champagne,” but these issues are not the deal breaker that the precautionary principle represents.

The EU has used the precautionary principle to block new biotechnology from being adopted, using extremely restrictive GMO regulatory regimen that has essentially kept EU’s agriculture in the dark ages, stifling innovation.

Any new idea that they come up with is greeted with the mindset that, “Oh that is different. There may be something wrong with it so we cannot approve its adoption.”

New seed technology slams up against a solid wall of bureaucracy. They write the rules specifically so that they cannot be surmounted.

They are not up front enough to say that they have no intention of approving these technologies so have put together approval regimens that cannot be satisfied.

Some EU member nations such as France are supporting a proposal where member nations can ban products without having to go through the pretense of making up an excuse to do so.

Ironically, European plant science companies like Syngenta, which is a Swiss company, come to the U.S. to take advantage of our regulatory process because it cannot do the research and development or have access to the market in Europe as their seeds are banned there.

The EU is a confederation of states and as such must represent all the members of the Union when setting regulatory policy or it won’t work.

The idea being floated that the EU could sign a trade agreement based upon sound science, but member nations could still ban whatever GMOs they want, is basically subterfuge, a failure to bargain in good faith. There can be no opting out.

That is how Europe does business, not how we do business, or how business is conducted complying with the WTO.

We should have had this out with Europe well over a decade ago responding with a trade war that would’ve rattled their teeth.

That was before 9/11, wars in Iraq, sub-prime mortgages and record deficits that have left us with an economy too fragile to pick a trade fight with anyone today, lest we destabilize the global economy.

But why are we kidding ourselves? There will be no TTIP while the precautionary principle is being used as the regulatory guideline in Europe; plus the tough negotiation cannot be finished until the Obama administration has the authority to speak for the U.S. to make deals.

Congress has always provided the Administration the trade promotion authority to cut a deal with trading partners, which is then brought back for Congress to ratify. Having 435 Congressmen at the negotiating table will only see to it that no agreement is reached.

The Democrats who control the Senate know that, which is why they have not granted President Obama what is called “fast track” authority to negotiate for the U.S.

Free trade agreements are to Democrats beholden to unions what a path to citizenship is to conservatives beholden to the Tea Party.

There is more chance of a GOP Congress granting President Obama trade promotion authority than his getting it from Reid and Pelosi.

So until Europe accepts sound science and Congress extends trade promotion authority to the President, they all need to stop kidding each other that there is any real basis to advance trade between the U.S. and Europe.

That is the blunt truth.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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