As the first round of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership kicked off Friday, agricultural trade experts say it marks the beginning of a challenging but hopefully rewarding process that could result in the largest trade deal in the world.
At present, the United States and the EU have about $2.7 billion of trade daily, and nearly $4 trillion is invested each other's economies, said J.B. Penn of Deere and Co., moderator of a Wednesday Farm Foundation discussion panel comprised of agricultural trade experts.
Penn noted that the already significant trade relationship between the U.S. and the EU represents an opportunity for the U.S. to expand trade for many products, but a special opportunity for agricultural products, which account for the largest sector exported.
But as panelist said, there are hurdles to expanding trade and negotiating a trade deal. Specifically, regulations for biotech crops and food safety expectations, along with differences in production and processing methods will require participation from the ag community and special consideration from negotiators.
Read more: U.S., EU Begin Trade Negotiations
Many have noted the non-tariff trade barriers represent one of the biggest concerns for the agriculture and food industries.
"We believe TTIP offers a genuine opportunity to expand dairy exports," said Sue Taylor, Leprino Foods Company. She noted that elimination of tariffs and regulatory barriers are the top priority for the dairy industry.
We want to "ensure that our products have access to the EU market without unwanted burdens. Unfortunately, this is currently not the case," Taylor said.
Among the trade issues, Taylor said, are somatic cell count limits and bans on the use of generic food names.
Along with issues on the food safety and dairy front, biotechnology has gotten a good look from both sides of the negotiation as an expected sticking point.
But Matt O'Mara, Director of International Affairs for Food and Ag at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, said the biotech industry largely sees a potential FTA as a positive way forward for biotech.
He said biotech is growing in the U.S., but there's rapid adoption of technology is outside of the U.S., too. He estimated that more than 17 million farmers are using biotechnology, and 90% are resource-poor. That figure, he noted, shows the need for across-the-board adoption of technology in trade.
If the technology is employed in the exporting country but not in importing there's a disruption in trade, he said, speculating that it will take management of the global regulatory process and major import markets coming to a decision on the product all around the same time.
"It's critical that we get these timelines to be as synchronous as possible – when this doesn't happen there's trade disruption," O'Mara said.