Trump administration releases trade barrier hitlist

These are the rules and regulations the US could ask the UK to change in exchange for a trade deal

The US government has spotlighted EU rules on food standards and chemical safety in its new report on ‘Foreign Trade Barriers’ sparking concerns over what it may demand as part of a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.

In the document, 47 pages of which are devoted to so-called barriers with the EU, the US trade representative describes trade issues ranging from nutritional labelling and geo indicators to pesticide regulations and genetically-altered crops.

Sam Lowe, an analyst with the Centre for European Reform, told Unearthed: “The US has long had a long list of grievances when it comes to how the EU regulates. And all of these issues will be on the table if and when the UK decides to negotiate a free trade agreement with Donald Trump.

“The UK needs to decide whether rushing into a trade agreement with the US – whose demands will require the UK to extricate itself from the EU’s regulatory order and in-turn a more economically damaging, harder Brexit – is really in the UK’s long-run interest. There is little evidence available to-date to suggest it is.”

Meat and milk

The report calls on the EU to allow imports of meat treated with growth hormones, describing the verification process as “costly and burdensome.”

Last year trade experts told Unearthed changing this rule would be essential if the UK were to strike a trade deal with the US.

As Unearthed reported in February, the EU requires milk products to have a significantly lower somatic cell count than the US — a high count can indicate poor animal welfare on farms.

In the document, the US trade representative describes meeting this standard as “burdensome” and says it is trying to change the rule via technical working groups.

Food features heavily in the America’s outstanding trade disputes with the EU, including issues around the speed of approval for genetically modified crops (too slow) and animal welfare requirements (too much).

The US also has a problem with how food is and could be sold across Europe, with geo indicators (which say where products come from) on things like whisky and nutritional labelling designed to tackle obesity.

Out of reach

The US government’s other main point of contention with the EU is REACH, Europe’s vast and complex regulatory regime for chemicals.

America has resisted REACH since its inception early this century, embarking on a years-long high-level lobbying campaign to prevent or weaken the rules.

In the report, the US calls some REACH requirements “onerous” or “simply unnecessary.”

It says that the US, along with several other countries have complained about REACH extensively at the World Trade Organisation. In fact, the US has challenged the rules 31 times, more than any other country.

This extends to pesticides and cosmetics, with the US disputing the way in which the EU assesses risk.

This year the section on EU trade barriers in the report  is slightly longer than in previous editions (2 pages), but despite Trump’s bellicosity and trade war tendencies, the content is pretty much the same as it ever was.

You can read the document in full here

Or, if 500 page trade documents aren’t your thing, read my Twitter thread here.