A new trade deal with Europe could open the door wider for already strong U.S. pistachio exports, one industry advocate told a government panel.

In testimony before U.S. Trade Representative’s Office Trade Policy Staff Committee, Thomas Dille, vice chairman of American Pistachio Growers, said the proposed U.S.-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership should address the immediate elimination of tariffs on U.S. pistachios. It should also harmonize sanitary and phytosanitary standards within Europe and should establish a pre-certification aflatoxin export inspection program for U.S. product destined to Europe, he said.

Europe is a growth market for U.S. pistachios, rising from 16,000 metric tons of exports in 2003 to well over twice that level by 2012.

While European tariffs on U.S. fresh and dried pistachios are only 1.6% of import value, Dille said those tariffs are still a drag on U.S. exports. U.S. pistachio exports in 2012 to Europe totaled 43,000 metric tons and were valued at $300 million. Tariffs accounted for close to $5 million that year, Dille said.

European pistachio output is only about 7,500 metric tons, but Dille said tariff-free imports of pistachios from Iran also compete in the European market.

He also stressed the need for agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

“We urge our U.S. negotiators to make the harmonization of pesticide maximum residue levels a major trade objective,” he said in his statement.