BRUSSELS, April 15 (Xinhua) -- European Union (EU) agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan ruled out that the bloc will let the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to weaken EU standards and regulations on food production and safety, farming and environmental legislation.
"There will be no lowering of EU standards on environmental conditions or on food production. The EU will remain a global standard maker in food production," Hogan told Xinhua as the EU Commission is preparing for the 13th negotiation round of the proposed landmark U.S.-EU free trade deal set to resume in New York from April 25 to 29.
Critics of the free trade agreement have argued that the bilateral trade agreement will force the EU to change its laws and lower the regulatory standards in crucial areas, including food safety, environmental legislation, labor rights, banking regulations and public procurement
Market access for agricultural products is also a key point in the TTIP negotiations. The EU wants to ring fence sensitive agricultural products, while the United States is pushing for a full liberalization of tariffs.
Talks are also tough over products with protected agricultural names, known as geographical indications (GIs) as the United States is reluctant to open its market to GIs imports, while losing the right to use such names for their own products. The EU has over 700 GIs, such as French champagne, Greek feta cheese, Italian gorgonzola, Scotch whisky, Parma ham.
"We will try to replicate in TTIP arrangements made in the recently sealed free trade agreement with Canada," explained Hogan, referring to the EU-Canada Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), one of the EU's recently concluded trade deals that contain important levels of protection for geographical indications.
The EU exports around 15 billion euros (about 17 billion U.S. dollars) in value of agricultural product and foodstuff to the United States and imports around 8 billion euros from the United States.
The EU Commissioner, who is directly involved in the negotiations concerning the agri-sector, also defied fears that the free trade agreement threatens to change the way small and medium sized farms operate.
"EU's agriculture is centrally involved in free trade agreements and negotiations not just with the USA, but also with other regions, which aim to promote agri-exports and reflect European farmers' competitiveness," the commissioner said.
According to the EU commissioner, there has been an intensification of efforts in recent weeks to conclude TTIP before the end of the Obama administration in January 2017.
"We expect in the next round the USA administration to put forward positive suggestions on procurement and financial procedures," Hogan noted.
Negotiations have moved very slowly amid rising political and public resistance to the deal on both sides. (1 euro = 1.13 U.S. dollars)