E.U. Officials Impatient Over Lack of Progress on Trade Pact With U.S.
15/01/2013 1 comentario
American and the European officials are taking longer than expected to agree to begin free-trade talks, leading to some barely contained impatience among the European political leaders who are hoping that President Barack Obama will signal support for a pact in his State of the Union address next month. A joint statement by the top U.S. and European trade officials was expected by the end of December or the beginning of this month, clearing the way for formal talks aimed at removing tariffs between the United States and the European Union, which are each other’s largest trading partners by far. The continued absence of the statement, with no clear indication when it might come, has led to some frustration among European leaders, as well as among U.S. and European business groups who say that an accord could spur growth and job creation on both sides of Atlantic. (source: NYTimes – 15/01/2013)
“One is a bit impatient,” said Peter Beyer, a member of German Parliament who has been involved in efforts to push trade talks forward. Mr. Beyer belongs to the center-right party led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who like most euro zone leaders has expressed strong support for a trade accord. Mr. Beyer and others involved in the issue said they were not aware of any problem with the substance of a deal, and that they assumed the delay was a result of changes in the White House as Mr. Obama prepared to begin his second term. “It has a lot to do with President Obama building a new administration,” Mr. Beyer said. There is considerable commerce at stake. Imports and exports between United States and European Union totaled $594 billion in first 11 months of 2012. There is broad agreement in government and industry that both regions would benefit by eliminating tariffs and harmonizing regulations that apply to a broad range of products that include drugs, auto parts and even toys. Among the groups filing statements last year in support of an agreement was Spanish Toy Association, which complained that products approved for safety in Europe must be recertified in the United States and vice versa, adding unnecessary costs.
The U.S. business groups have also been pushing energetically for the talks to begin, arguing the economic impact could be substantial because the overall volume of trade is so large. “This is an important opportunity for both sides to get their economies going again, and we hope there will be positive recommendation by the end of the month,” said Peter H. Chase, the vicepresident for Europe at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Brussels. While some food producers and other industry groups have expressed concerns about what provisions of a deal might be, there does not seem to be any broad-based opposition. But because the United States and the European Union are both so large, reaching an agreement will be extremely complex. Andrea Mead, a spokeswoman for U.S. trade representative in Washington, was unable to provide much detail on the progress on a free-trade agreement. “We know there is a lot of interest in whether we will decide with our E.U. colleagues to launch F.T.A. negotiations,” she said on Monday. “Our work in that regard is ongoing. We want to take the time to get the substance right so that any agreement we might pursue would maximize job-supporting economic opportunities.” Most optimistic estimates are that an accord could be reached by the end of the year, but it could take longer. A so-called High Level Working Group, made up of top trade officials from the United States and the European Union, was originally supposed to issue a statement in November would establish a broad framework for detailed negotiations. That deadline was then delayed until December or early January. There is still no firm indication when it might come. Proponents of a deal would be delighted if Mr. Obama were to make even a glancing reference to an agreement when he makes his State of the Union address on Feb. 12. The president’s endorsement would send a signal of encouragement to the hundreds of midlevel officials who would have to do the mind-numbing work involved in formulating an accord. “That would be a very positive,” said Mr. Peter Beyer, the member of the German Parliament. “I don’t know how realistic that is”.
United States and Europe have been discussing a trade pact informally since 1990s. But despite widespread agreement that a comprehensive pact would be good for both economies, progress has been achingly slow. Governments may have been put off by the complexity of the negotiations that would be needed, and they were also preoccupied with opening up new markets in Asia and other fast-growing regions. In addition, because United States and European Union are each accustomed to being the dominant power in trade talks, it will take some adjusting to negotiate with a trade partner on roughly equal terms. Still, with Europe struggling to emerge from a recession, leaders including British prime minister, David Cameron, have argued a free-trade deal would be both a cheap and a relatively painless way to stimulate growth. Mr. Cameron said this month that reaching an agreement would be his priority as Britain takes over the rotating leadership of the G-8 group of wealthy nations. Another impetus will come from Ireland, which this month assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union. Ireland is the only member of the euro zone where English is an official language, making it a favored gateway for U.S. companies and giving Ireland an especially keen stake in smoother trade relations. U.S. companies that maintain headquarters or very large operations in Ireland include Dell, Google, Microsoft, Pfizer. Richard Bruton, the Irish minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation, said in a statement that a trade deal could lift the E.U. economy by €120 billion, or $160 billion, per year and the U.S. economy by $100 billion. “Gains of that scale are invaluable at a time like this”.