United States and EU to restart shellfish trade

United States and EU to restart shellfish trade

by Sue Jones
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Trade in shellfish between the United States and Europe is set to resume after more than a decade.

Spain and the Netherlands will be allowed to export chilled or frozen shellfish such as mussels, clams, oysters and scallops to the U.S., whilst the states of Massachusetts and Washington can do the same to the European Union beginning at the end of this month.

Because of differing regulatory standards, trade in live, raw and processed bivalve molluscan shellfish had been banned between the two regions since 2011.

In 2015, both sides carried out audits and, following years of discussions, the EU Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found the control systems for the production of raw bivalve mollusks in the two American states and the EU countries are equivalent.

American reaction
“This announcement demonstrates an exciting opportunity for U.S. seafood producers to deliver world-leading products to consumers in the EU and furthers the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s mission to provide U.S. stakeholders opportunities to better compete in the global marketplace,” said Tom Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture.

“U.S. seafood producers, including many family-owned businesses, are internationally recognized for exporting safe, sustainable and wholesome seafood — a valuable commodity in the global market,” said Gina M. Raimondo, secretary of commerce.

John Connelly, president of the National Fisheries Institute, welcomed the move.

“We urge the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to ensure that the EU continues to follow through on its commitment to further open EU markets to all other processed molluscan shellfish products such as clams from the U.S. The economic opportunity presented by (the) agreement should be fully realized for American seafood workers throughout the entire U.S. supply chain.”

In 2020, the United States was one of the world’s largest seafood exporters, with sales of seafood products valued at $4.5 billion. In 2021 exports of seafood to the EU exceeded $900 million.

European comment
The FDA and the EU’s health and safety agency, DG Sante, will carry out periodic onsite audits to verify that equivalence is maintained.

Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for health and food safety, said: “We are delighted that trustful transatlantic EU-U.S. cooperation is reopening an important trade pathway between the EU and the U.S. on bivalve mollusks. This is good news for food operators and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Other EU member states could also be allowed to export such products to the U.S. in the future after a simplified authorization procedure was agreed to between the two parties.

Valdis Dombrovskis, executive vice president and commissioner for trade, said resumption of trade in bivalve mollusks will help to create economic growth and jobs.

“I warmly welcome this deal, which resolves a long-standing issue we have been working hard to unlock. It shows that our efforts to forge a positive, forward-looking trade agenda with the United States are paying off,” he said.

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