U.S. and Europe begin talks on transatlantic trade deal

Jun 24, 2013

President Obama last week, together with European Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van Rompuy, announced that the U.S. and the European Union (EU) will be launching negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) agreement. The first round of T-TIP negotiations will take place the week of July 8 in Washington, D.C., under the leadership of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Announcing the launch of talks, EU’s prime minister, David Cameron, said a successful deal would add up to $157 billion to the EU economy and up to $134 billion to the U.S. economy.

“This is a once-in-a-generation prize and it must be seized,” the prime minister said.

While Europe hopes the plan will be wrapped up within 18 months, Obama warned of potential obstacles it could face in the U.S. but also emphasized the priority of the deal.

Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, shared his optimism with reporters: “Negotiations might not always be easy but they will be worth it. We will find solutions to thorny issues, we will keep our eyes on the prize and we will succeed. We intend to move forward fast.”

According to the announcement, T-TIP will be an ambitious, comprehensive, and high-standard trade and investment agreement that offers significant benefits in terms of promoting U.S. international competitiveness, jobs and growth.

T-TIP hopes to boost economic growth in the U.S. and the EU and add to the more than 13 million American and EU jobs already supported by transatlantic trade and investment.

The announcement outlined specific plans to:

• Further open EU markets, increasing the $458 billion in goods and private services the United States exported in 2012 to the EU, our largest export market. • Strengthen rules-based investment to grow the world’s largest investment relationship. The United States and the EU already maintain a total of nearly $3.7 trillion in investment in each other’s economies (as of 2011).

• Eliminate all tariffs on trade.

• Tackle costly “behind the border” non-tariff barriers that impede the flow of goods, including agricultural goods.

• Obtain improved market access on trade in services.

• Significantly reduce the cost of differences in regulations and standards by promoting greater compatibility, transparency, and cooperation, while maintaining our high levels of health, safety, and environmental protection.

• Develop rules, principles, and new modes of cooperation on issues of global concern, including intellectual property and market-based disciplines addressing state-owned enterprises and discriminatory localization barriers to trade.

Promote the global competitiveness of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

If T-TIP is finalized, it will be the biggest trade pact of all time, even surpassing NAFTA, according to some analysts.

Bob Stallman, president, American Farm Bureau Federation, said the plan holds promise for expanded market access and an improved, science-based regulatory approach for agriculture.

“A constant commitment to removing barriers to agricultural trade is necessary in order to achieve a worthwhile agreement for U.S. agriculture. The misuse of sanitary and phytosanitary standards, including the EU’s restrictions on genetically engineered crops, has long been a tactic to impede trade. We will look closely to these negotiations to move past this trade-distorting tactic and fully embrace a rules-based trading system with standards based upon scientific assessment,” Stallman said.

“Farmers and ranchers have been frustrated over the seemingly endless array of non-tariff barriers Europe applies to many of our agricultural commodities and products. We expect the T-TIP to be a highstandard, comprehensive agreement that covers all significant barriers to U.S. and EU agricultural trade. We are cautiously hopeful that these negotiations will yield positive results for U.S. agriculture,” he added. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor