Saturday, October 27, 2018

EU Comes To PDX, Talks Turkey (and Hazelnuts and Wine and Olive Oil and…)

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the event I moderated the other night, A Taste of Europe, came toward the end of the evening when the featured speaker, Dr. Lorenzo Terzi, European Union Minister Counselor for Health and Food Safety, said that if he had his way there would be no barriers to trade between the European Union (EU) and the United States. Zero. None.

Dr. Lorenzo Terzi.

That's a pretty big bombshell coming from a guy who's spent his career negotiating trade deals, and he admitted it was a risky thing to say, but Terzi posited that if the EU and the US were to agree to drop trade barriers in both directions at the same time, everyone would benefit. (Obviously regulations on safety, health, etc., would still be in force.) I'll leave it to those more knowledgeable about world trade to hammer out the details, but I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one.

With Center for Animal Law Studies Dir. Kathy Hessler.

Earlier in the day I'd joined Terzi for a lunch lecture to students at Lewis and Clark Law School's Center for Animal Law Studies where he discussed the EU's "Trade for All" policy, a vision for global trade and values described as having a "lighthouse effect" when it came to trade in animals, plants and food. One example of this effect is the EU position that all animals are sentient beings, and that animals used in the production of food in the 28 member states are entitled to what are termed the "Five Freedoms":

• Freedom from hunger and thirst
• Freedom from discomfort
• Freedom from pain, injury and disease
• Freedom to express normal behavior
• Freedom from fear and distress

Touring a hazelnut orchard.

At the evening panel discussion, the 100-or-so guests packed into the room sampled Belgian waffles from Offty Waffles, which were piled sky-high with whipped cream; pretzels from Urban German Grill; and cheeses and dips from Elephants Delicatessen, as well as beverages from Europe and the U.S., while Terzi presented his case for opening up trade with the EU. His main focus was the imbalance between the U.S. treatment of the EU as 28 separate entities, forcing the member states to individually work out separate export request files, a duplicative, expensive and time-consuming effort, rather than treating the EU—as the member states have since the Maastricht Treaty of 1993—as a "Single Entity" trading partner.

A regular Johnny Carson!

The evening also featured Alexis Taylor, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, who outlined the extensive nature of Oregon's longstanding trading relationship with Europe. Katy Millard, owner and chef of Coquine and a 2018 James Beard Award finalist, discussed her view of the contrasts between her work in the kitchens of France and U.S., as well as the food safety environment in both countries, which she considers comparable if subtly different. Rounding out the panel was New Seasons Market's Oren Kariri, who gave an overview of the company's food safety program as well as covering the importance of foods imported from the EU in its mix of products.

Questions from the diverse audience ran the gamut from questions about Italian olive oils imported from Italy, Terzi's home country; to the ways that the EU and the US view the relationship between agriculture and climate change; to the potential value of seeking a career in food safety.

As for his response to his whirlwind trip to Portland that involved the lecture, several farm tours and the evening panel? It was summed up in a tweet he sent out when he got home: "It was a real privilege to talk the 'EU lighthouse' effect on food safety and animal welfare [to the Lewis & Clark students]. Let’s continue to change the world together!"

Read my interview with Dr. Terzi and find out why he says, "Farmers are my heroes."

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