Sunday

30th Apr 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

Eurogroup makes 'progress' on Greek deal

Eurozone ministers endorsed an agreement in principle between the Greek government and its creditors over a new package of reforms. But talks on fiscal targets and debt could still block a final agreement.

New anti-trust complaint looms over Microsoft

At least three security software companies “met several times” with the European Commission to complain about Microsoft’s alleged abuse of its market position. A formal case could follow.

New anti-trust complaint looms over Microsoft

At least three security software companies “met several times” with the European Commission to complain about Microsoft’s alleged abuse of its market position. A formal case could follow.

Investigation

MEPs oppose EU agency to prevent Dieselgate II

The European Parliament said on Tuesday that there should be more EU oversight on how cars are approved, but stopped short of calling for an independent EU agency.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual