The Grocery Manufacturers of America yesterday told the U.S. Trade Representative that success of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) depends on the launch of new trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In written comments to USTR, GMA said agriculture is the most protected of all trade sectors and has emerged as one of the most contentious issues in FTAA negotiations.

“Put simply, it is unlikely there will be an FTAA agreement without agriculture and it would be extremely difficult for FTAA members to achieve results without a new round of negotiations in the WTO,” said Sarah Fogarty, GMA director of international trade.

“The issues of domestic support and market access are sensitive and complex. To ensure that we do not lose leverage against significant trading partners like the EU and Japan, there must be a global solution for agriculture trade,” she added.

Fogarty also noted that the new round of WTO talks must be balanced, but manageable. “There must be enough on the table to provide leverage for meaningful reform but not so much as to overload the agenda,” she said.

GMA said a top priority should be to improve market access for processed foods and primary agriculture products by eliminating or substantially reducing tariffs. GMA also urged USTR to address the issue of non-tariff trade barriers including product labeling.

GMA’s letter to USTR is available at http://www.gmabrands.com .

GMA is the world’s largest association of food, beverage and consumer product companies. With U.S. sales of more than $460 billion, GMA members employ more than 2.5 million workers in all 50 states. The organization applies legal, scientific and political expertise from its member companies to vital food, nutrition and public policy issues affecting the industry. Led by a board of 44 Chief Executive Officers, GMA speaks for food and consumer product manufacturers at the state, federal and international levels on legislative and regulatory issues. The association also leads efforts to increase productivity, efficiency and growth in the food, beverage and consumer products industry.