US, EU START FREE TRADE TALKS

Reuters on July 8, 2013, reported that the United States and the European Union began talks on a landmark bilateral free trade agreement. Excerpts below.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman touted the economic benefits a deal would bring, not just for the United States and Europe but for the global trading system.

“We have the opportunity to complement one of the greatest alliances of all time with an equally compelling economic relationship,” he said in remarks to the two delegations as the talks got under way in Washington.

“And we have the opportunity to work together to establish and enforce international norms and standards that will help inform and strengthen the multilateral, rules-based trading system.”

..

“The reason why we decided to hold the talks now is that we are convinced that this deal is good for Europe,” European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht told reporters in Geneva.

“We are convinced that this trade agreement will result in more jobs and more growth.”

..

The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership pact would be the world’s biggest free-trade deal, covering about 50 percent of global economic output, 30 percent of global trade and 20 percent of global foreign direct investment.

The Centre for Economic Policy Research in London has estimated that an ambitious agreement that eliminates tariffs and reduces regulatory barriers could boost U.S. and EU economic growth by more than $100 billion each a year.

The United States and the European Union are already each other’s top trade and investment partners, with two-way trade that totaled more than $646 billion last year.

Business groups on both sides of the Atlantic support the proposed deal,…

..

This week’s talks are expected to be mainly organizational, with negotiators split up into 15 different groups to deal with issues ranging from agricultural market access to electronic commerce to investment and competition policy.

..

Former EU Trade Commissioner Leon Brittan called for a U.S.-EU free-trade agreement in 1995, but it took the rise of China, the death of world trade talks and the havoc of the global financial crisis to make the time finally right.

Even then, the two sides have tiptoed up to the talks. A high-level working group examined the issue for more than a year before releasing its recommendation in February for negotiations on a comprehensive trade and investment agreement.

..

But many trade experts believe the talks could stretch into 2015.

Since tariffs across the Atlantic are relatively low, much of the focus will be on reducing and preventing regulatory barriers to trade in areas ranging from agriculture and autos to chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

“There are sensitivities on both sides that will have to be addressed. But we think the prospect of a broad and comprehensive agreement gives us our best opportunity for achieving something that has eluded us before,” Froman told Reuters in a recent interview.

..

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