Trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union are long, tedious, and ongoing. Now in 2021, they still have not reached a conclusion. The 2010 effort was by far the closest, brought on by the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would have created the largest free trade area in the world. With TTIP, over 90% of tariffs would have been reduced to zero, benefiting millions of consumers on both sides of the pond, through more competition and choice. However, the agreement died a slow death through the European unwillingness to make concessions on agricultural regulations. Public opinion in Europe had turned against TTIP as it was considered to circumvent EU food rules, by importing potentially harmful food items. Under the Trump administration, the conclusion of new trade deals was rendered less plausible through the worsened political climate, and the European insistence that agriculture could not become part of the equation.
In the long run, this means that while Americans and Europeans visit each other’s continents and eat each other’s food on business or pleasure trips, they do not benefit from the quality food products that could be delivered through freer trade. For two political blocs long adamant about the importance of free trade, this lapsus is unfortunate. Exchanging goods and services is essential for the understanding and the smooth political exchange between two friendly blocs.
Europe’s insistence on the upholding of its food rules should not be seen as an uncircumventable road block — instead the United States should make new efforts to conclude a free trade agreement, without adapting its own national rules to those of Europe. This is not for the sake of showing a hard line, but rather because Europe’s agricultural regulations are objectively inferior to those of the United States, at least for the moment.
This policy note explores the reasons why the United States should not attempt to emulate EU food regulations, and an in-depth view into what a world without crop protection tools would look like.