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U.S. and European Union negotiators should focus on issues where economic relations can be improved immediately before they begin talks on a broad trade agreement, the U.S. trade ambassador said.
“Our mutual, urgent needs to enhance growth and employment compel us to identify a short path to success before we launch these negotiations,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said today in a speech in London.
The U.S. and 27-nation EU, which have the world’s largest bilateral economic relationship, are considering ways to lower trade barriers after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Negotiators led by Kirk and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht are set to issue a progress report next month.
De Gucht has proposed that negotiations for a U.S.-EU trade accord be complete by the middle of 2014.
“Many in Europe have already voiced very strong support for a comprehensive free-trade agreement as a single undertaking,” Kirk said. The U.S. wants “to ensure that its outcomes will be at least as broad and ambitious as those contained in our existing trade agreements.”
While trade flows between the U.S. and EU are about $4.4 trillion annually, according to the German Marshall Fund, the two sides are unable to reach agreement in areas such as agriculture, health and safety standards and regulations. Kirk said the trading partners can work to reduce subsidies for large commercial aircraft, which pit Boeing Co. (BA) of Chicago against a European competitor, Airbus SAS.
“From the perspective of the United States, an ambitious transatlantic negotiation -- should we choose to pursue that course -- would need to achieve full liberalization of market access across all categories of goods, and expand Atlantic flows of services and investment as well,” Kirk said. It should also seek to lower non-tariff barriers, he said.
Kirk and U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson are in Europe this week to discuss improving economic relations between the U.S. and EU, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a Washington- based industry group that represents business interests, has pushed for a transatlantic trade accord. Helping Europe recover from a sovereign-debt crisis was a major theme of the G-8 summit of world leaders in Camp David, Maryland, last weekend.
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