Aquaculture for all

US and Europe to resume bivalve trade

Clams Mussels Oysters +12 more

After a ten-year trade suspension, the United States and European Union have agreed to restart trade in clams, mussels and oysters from the end of February.

Mussels growing on a rope
The US and EU suspended trade in bivalves due to conflicting food safety standards

© Offshore Shellfish

The announcement came after negotiations between the US Trade Representative’s office and European Commission on Friday 4 February. The Commission, which oversees trade policy for the 27 EU nations, says it has adopted relevant legislation to permit bivalve imports.

Trade in bivalve molluscs between the US and EU was suspended in 2011 due to differences in food safety rules. The renewed trade permissions mark an improvement in transatlantic relations. Reporting in Reuters explains that exports will initially resume for the Netherlands and Spain and the US states of Massachusetts and Washington.

Both sides agreed to a streamlined regulatory process, established by the FDA and EU’s Directorate-General for Health and Safety (DG SANTE). Because of this, shellfish growers in other US states and other EU member countries can apply for export clearance.

Both sides resolved their concerns over food safety standards after the FDA and European Commission conducted a series of audits on bivalves. After years of discussions, both parties recommended that food safety systems for raw molluscs in the US and EU be recognised as equivalent.

Person sorting and grading oysters
The FDA and EU conducted a series of food safety audits on bivalves

© Dorset Coast Forum and Butterfly Effect Films

The commission said trading opportunities could be extended to more EU countries in the future under a simplified authorisation procedure agreed to between the two sides, the first time a US agency has agreed to such a process.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis in a statement said both sides had worked hard to resolve this long-standing issue.

"It shows that our efforts to forge a positive, forward-looking trade agenda with the United States are paying off," he said.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said the agreement represented a positive step in US-EU trade relations.

Clams in a white container
Both parties have adopted a streamlined regulatory process that will facilitate additional export licenses

© Oceano Fresco

US Representative Suzan DelBene said the deal was "long-overdue and a major win" for her home state of Washington and would support an industry that directly employs over 3,200 state residents.

"Before this trade freeze, Washington was exporting hundreds of thousands of pounds of shellfish to the European Union annually," said DelBene, a Democrat who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee.

In 2020, the United States was one of the world's largest seafood exporters, with global sales of $4.5 billion. Last year, its seafood product exports to the EU exceeded $900 million.

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