European Union, U.S. sign organic food deal
NUREMBERG, Germany — Food products classified as organic in the European Union or the United States can be sold as such in either region after a deal struck on Wednesday between the two major trading blocs.
The agreement, signed in the southern city of Nuremberg between top officials from both sides, seeks to boost trade in the fast-growing organic food industry, valued at more than $50 billion (38 billion euros) combined.
“This partnership marks an important step, taking EU-US agricultural trade relations to a new level of cooperation,” said EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos in a statement.
Before the deal, which comes into effect in June this year, companies producing organic food had to conform to two different sets of standards on both sides of the Atlantic.
“This partnership eliminates significant barriers, especially for small and medium-sized organic producers,” said the European Commission.
Deputy US Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan hailed the accord, saying it would “open new markets for American farmers and ranchers” and “result in good jobs for Americans who package, ship and market organic products.”
Top European leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have led a push to boost bilateral transatlantic trade as the eurozone continues to wrestle with its debt crisis.
“2012 should be a decisive year to move ahead on trade agreements with major partners,” EU leaders said in a statement after a summit in January focused on measures to boost the recession-threatened European Union.
The US is the 27-nation EU’s biggest trading partner, just ahead of China, according to the EU’s latest statistics from 2010.
Transatlantic trade accounted for 14.4 percent of European trade, compared to 13.8 percent with China, European Commission statistics showed.
According to figures from the German Agriculture Ministry, more than 90 percent of all sales of organic food are in the United States or Europe.
The EU has already signed similar agreements with Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, India, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland.