Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

Governments to give green light for US trade talks

Governments are expected to agree on an EU mandate to open negotiations on an ambitious bilateral trade deal with the United States at the next meeting of EU trade ministers.

The decision, which is expected on 14 June, would pave the way for the European Commission's trade team, led by Commissioner Karel de Gucht, to begin talks in July.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

A diplomatic official involved in the negotiations described himself as "reasonably confident" that ministers would reach agreement.

However, countries bring different views to the table on the scope of the mandate.

Speaking with this website, UK government sources described the trans-atlantic talks as "a once in a generation opportunity," adding that the UK is keen to put "all sectors on the table at the start of negotiations."

"A mandate that is as broad as we can possibly get is the best way to proceed," the contact said.

Other countries are more wary.

France has insisted that the defence and cultural sectors be excluded. Trade minister Nicole Bricq stated earlier this month that Paris would veto any deal which did not respect these red lines.

But other highly sensitive topics including energy, intellectual property rights and genetically modified organisms, are all set to be part of the mandate.

The commission estimates that an EU-US trade deal going beyond conventional tariff barriers and harmonising standards on goods and services would be worth €100 billion per year, equivalent to an additional 0.5 percent of EU GDP.

Failure to go beyond tariffs would see the economic benefits reduced to under €25 billion, according to the EU executive.

Although EU officials are also trying to agree trade deals with Canada, Japan, India and southern Asia, the prospect of sealing a trade treaty with the US is widely regarded as the jewel in the crown.

De Gucht has set an ambitious 2014 deadline for concluding an agreement. However, the EU's track-record points to a negotiating process lasting up to three years.

Between them, the EU and US account for around 50 percent of world GDP and 30 percent of global trade.

Meanwhile, MEPs in Strasbourg also offered strong endorsement of the talks.

A report drafted by Portuguese centre-left deputy Vital Moreira asserted that the talks had "the potential to lead to a win-win situation" for businesses and consumers. It was was adopted by 460 votes to 105 on Thursday (23 May).

But there were dissenting voices over whether certain economic sectors should be taken off the table.

Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake, spokesperson for the Liberal group on transatlantic trade, warned that "prematurely excluding certain sectors from the negotiations will lead the Americans to do the same."

Still, a majority of MEPs asked that cultural and audiovisual services, including online ones, be excluded from the mandate.

The parliament report is not legally binding and MEPs will not be involved in the negotiations.

However, the parliament must give its consent before any international treaty negotiated by the commission can be adopted.

After suffering a bruising experience over its handling of the controversial anti-counterfeit treaty Acta, which culminated in MEPs vetoing the deal in July 2012, the commission has promised to debrief deputies on the trade committee before and after each round of talks.

In a thinly veiled reference to the Acta travails during a debate on Wednesday (22 May), Moreira warned that "parliament has teeth and can bite."

France threatens US trade veto over culture

The French government has dismissed as "naive" suggestions that a transatlantic trade deal with the US could substantially benefit the EU economy and take it out of crisis.

Opinion

EU-US trade - the value of shared values

The EU and the US will soon be launching negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade and lnvestment Partnership, one of the most ambitious bilateral initiatives in the world to create jobs and growth through trade and investment.

Feature

Promises and doubts: Africa's free-trade adventure

The EU is hoping that a continent-wide free trade agreement in Africa will help lift millions out of poverty and help solve issues of security and migration. But its message of values and equal partnership do not resonate with everyone.

News in Brief

  1. MEPs: Finnish budget proposal 'impossible to implement'
  2. EP committee supports 'Future of EU Conference'
  3. EU survey: climate change must be parliament's priority
  4. Zahradil resigns as rapporteur on EU-Vietnam trade deal
  5. Russia plans 'Arctic Air Defence" with S-400 missiles
  6. Belgium: King does another round of consultations
  7. Thousands protest Orban's theatre clampdown
  8. Russia and Ukraine agree ceasefire by new year

Feature

Promises and doubts: Africa's free-trade adventure

The EU is hoping that a continent-wide free trade agreement in Africa will help lift millions out of poverty and help solve issues of security and migration. But its message of values and equal partnership do not resonate with everyone.

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us