Friday

3rd Jul 2020

EU leaders throw weight behind US trade talks

  • EU officials are looking to Obama's state of the union speech (Photo: Barack Obama)

EU leaders have thrown their weight behind talks aimed at securing a comprehensive trade agreement with the US.

In a communique adopted following the EU budget summit on Friday (February 8), the European Council reiterated its "support for a comprehensive trade agreement" with the United States.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Any talks are likely to focus more on harmonising regulatory standards than on reducing already low tariff barriers, with the Council calling on trade talks to pay "particular attention to ways to achieve greater transatlantic regulatory convergence."

The move, which puts the US at the top of long list of trade talks expected to take place in 2013, is the latest sign that the EU sees trade as its most effective answer to austerity. The leaders' statement added that "an ambitious trade agenda can lead in the medium term to an overall increase of 2 percent in growth and to the creation of 2 million jobs."

Meanwhile, leaders said they expect a trade deal with neighbouring Canada to be concluded "very shortly," while negotiations with Japan expected to be launched in Tokyo at the upcoming EU-Japan summit.

Although the summit in Brussels was dominated by protracted negotiations on the EU's near €1 trillion budget for the next seven year framework, the European Commission has estimated that an EU-US trade deal could be worth €275 billion per year - more than double the size of the bloc's annual budget.

EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht is currently in North America for talks with Canadian trade minister, Ed Fast, and US trade representative Ron Kirk in a bid to fast-track the pace of negotiations. Talks with Canada are on the verge of completion, while EU officials are hopeful that President Barack Obama will mention the EU-US plan in his state of the union address next Tuesday (February 12).

During a speech in Munich last week, US vice-president Joe Biden talked up the prospect of a trade deal "getting done." He said that an accord "would be good for growth, job creation, and be good on both sides of the Atlantic; it would strengthen our global trading system; and it would, importantly, help us strategically."

Bilateral trade agreements have become the new vogue in EU policy as the bloc's 27 member states attempt to drag their economies out of recession and away from austerity. However, only four of the EU's 29 trade agreements already in force (Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, South Korea) are with countries in the G20

Andrew Burns, senior economist for the World Bank, told this website that although economists have reservations about the benefits of bilateral trade deals "these trade agreements have, on balance, been trade creating not diverting."

But nearly five years after the start of the financial crisis, governments are still yet to repeal a large number of measures to restrict trade.

The World Trade Organisation reported that in the seven months up to May 2012, 182 instruments to restrict or distort trade were adopted by governments. It also claims that only 18 percent of the trade restricting measures adopted by G20 countries since 2008 have been scrapped, amounting to a total loss of 3 percent of world trade - equivalent to some €350 billion.

Analysis

What chance an EU-US trade deal?

The relationship between the US and Europe has historically been about diplomacy. But in these economically-straitened times, the focus on foreign policy has shifted.

EU edges toward Canada free trade deal

EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht will meet Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as the EU executive steps up its bid to secure the latest in a series of lucrative free trade agreements.

2015 target date for EU-US trade deal

EU and US negotiators want to have a transatlantic trade and investment deal in place by 2015, but French politicians are wary of the pact.

EU plans tougher checks on foreign takeovers

The EU and its member countries are worried that foreign powers, such as China and its state-owned companies will take advantage of the economic downturn and buy up European firms

Vestager hits back at Lufthansa bailout criticism

Commission vice-president in charge of competition Margarethe Vestager argued that companies getting large capital injections from the state during the corona crisis still have to offset their competitive advantage.

News in Brief

  1. French prime minister and government resign
  2. France lied on Nato naval clash, Turkey claims
  3. EU highlights abuses in recent Russia vote
  4. Belgium bids to host EU mask stockpile
  5. France shamed on refugees by European court
  6. French and Dutch police take down criminal phone network
  7. EU launches infringement case on Covid-19 cancelled trips
  8. Michel to propose smaller EU budget, keep recovery figure

Coronavirus

EU leaders to reconvene in July on budget and recovery

Most EU leaders want an agreement before the summer break, but the Dutch PM, leading the 'Frugal Four', warned there might not even be a deal then. But the ECB's Christian Lagarde has warned of a "dramatic" economic fall.

Coronavirus

EU leaders seek to first narrow differences at summit

EU leaders on Friday will share their takes - online - on the €750bn recovery and €1.1 trillion budget plans, before they try to seal the deal at one or two likely head-to-head meetings in July.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us