U.S. Statement at the WTO Trade Policy Review of the European Union

WTO_OMC centeredStatement as delivered by Christopher Wilson,
USTR Deputy Chief of Mission

Geneva,

July 5, 2017

Thank you, Chair.  The United States warmly welcomes the delegation of the European Union to this review; we express our appreciation to Deputy Director-General Korte for his well-organized statement, which exemplifies the consistently serious approach of the EU to our work here at the WTO.

We would like to recognize the excellent work of the Secretariat and the European Commission in compiling the reports before us, and to offer thanks for the EU’s responses to a probably unwelcome number of questions from the U.S.  We would also like to highlight the presence today of two of our interested U.S. colleagues from the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Julie Beraud of USTR and Mary Ellen Smith of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The U.S. economic relationship with the EU is immensely valuable to the U.S. economy, and is indeed a critical pillar of the global economy.  Our economies together account for nearly half of global GDP (46.5 percent) and 32 percent of global trade.  Each day, goods and services worth nearly $3 billion are traded across the Atlantic.  At the end of 2015, the value of our direct investment in each other’s economies totaled nearly $4.5 trillion.

These astonishing figures describe a substantial economic relationship, but we believe it is one that has not yet fulfilled its potential to promote growth in our respective economies, nor in the economies of many other Members that engage in significant trade with each of us.

As we noted during the EU’s last trade policy review (in 2015), most of our trade with the EU proceeds without complication, unaffected by significant trade barriers.  Nonetheless, we do have certain concerns about EU policies in a number of areas that create unjustified or unnecessary barriers to trade.

Over the past three years, as we negotiated the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement (T-TIP), we worked to eliminate some of those trade barriers, including existing measures that each side believes impede trade.  Let me flag a few of our more prominent concerns this morning.

The United States continues to be frustrated by EU barriers to our agricultural exports.  High tariffs present a significant obstacle to the capacity of our producers to succeed in the important EU market.

Another critical trade policy priority is to reduce and eliminate non-tariff barriers to U.S. agricultural exports, including by ensuring that sanitary and phytosanitary measures are based on science and risk.  A number of EU SPS measures are not supported by the scientific opinions of the EU’s own institutions, and are defended on grounds other than demonstrated risks to human or animal health or the environment.  Even this week, there have been expressed concerns with respect to the regulation of endocrine disruptors, which are characteristic of these concerns.

Given the EU’s importance in the global trading system, both as a commercial power and as a supporter of a rules-based system for regulating trade, we worry about the proliferation of trade restrictions that are based on factors other than the objective criteria offered by scientific assessments of risk, as required under the WTO SPS Agreement.

Other EU non-tariff measures continue to pose significant barriers to U.S. manufactured exports.  As we regularly note in the WTO TBT Committee, the United States has broad concerns about EU policies and procedures to develop and implement technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures, as well as concerns about specific measures that affect U.S. exporters in a wide range of sectors, including chemicals and wine. We also continue to be concerned about EU policies that generate barriers to U.S. trade in third countries, such as requiring certain EU trading partners to automatically protect EU geographical indications without adequate consideration of prior trademark rights and generic terms, and to eliminate standards that other countries rely on in selling products in those markets, or making technical assistance contingent upon the elimination of such standards.

While we are encouraged that the EU has begun taking steps to reform its fisheries subsidies policies, we urge the EU to increase transparency and continue its efforts to reduce subsidies to its fishing fleet, which may contribute to excess capacity and depletion of fish stocks.

Finally, a word about our engagement with the EU here in the WTO.  We deeply value the exceptional maturity of the U.S.-EU dialogue on all matters affecting the work of the WTO.  We frequently disagree on big and small issues, including questions of strategy, tactics, individual substantive issues, and even on important systemic issues such as those surrounding the WTO’s dispute settlement functions.  Just as often, we see eye-to-eye.  And in all instances, we are able to engage with each other in a respectful, straightforward, and good-humored manner.  The United States will continue to place great value on this aspect of our trade relationship with the EU as we work to make the WTO work better for all Members in the future.

In closing, the United States welcomes the opportunity to review EU trade policies through this [TPR] process and is hopeful that our exchanges will help us identify ways that those policies can help increase the benefits of all our trade with the EU.