Gov't, EU eye quick path to trade agreement: US trade representative

Thursday, May 17, 2012
By Doug Palmer, Reuters

WASHINGTON--The United States and European Union are laying the groundwork for trade talks that could quickly produce an agreement to help boost jobs on both sides, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on Tuesday.

“We each want an agreement that we can produce in a reasonable period of time, and we need to fashion our work plan around that,” Kirk said after a speech to a U.S. textile industry group.

Last year, the United States and the European Union created a high-level working group led by Kirk and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht to examine options for expanding trade and economic ties.

Kirk and De Gucht are expected to deliver their preliminary recommendations in June and a final report by year-end.

“Our teams have been working very hard ... We want a roadmap that goes to somewhere. We don't want a bunch of road kill in the way. We don't want a bunch of road blocks and we want to get there on one tank of gas,” Kirk said.

The initiative comes as economic growth remains sluggish on both sides of the Atlantic and the prolonged European debt crisis is raising fears of another recession. The United States and the 27 nations of the EU already have highly integrated economies, with two-way trade topping US$500 billion a year. But business groups on both sides have pushed for talks to tear down remaining barriers.

U.S. President Barack Obama will be meeting with European leaders at the Group of Eight leading economies summit this Friday and Saturday at the Camp David presidential retreat and also at the NATO summit next week in Chicago

Three leading U.S. business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Association of Manufacturers, urged Obama in a letter last week to use both meetings “to take further concrete steps towards launching deep and comprehensive transatlantic trade, investment and regulatory cooperation negotiations this year.”

Kirk said he did not know if leaders would address the issue at the upcoming meetings, but noted discussions between the two sides are continuing apace.

“What we're trying to do is drill down to the details” of what an agreement might look like, Kirk said.

“We know there are going to be some areas that are just very difficult for Europe and maybe some for us.”

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