Preparations for upcoming negotiations between the United States and European Union on a transatlantic free trade and investment agreement were on the agenda Monday when U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron visited the White House.
The United States and European Union enjoy the world's largest economic relationship, accounting for a third of total goods and services trade, and half of world output. Trade supports 13 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Each day an estimated $2.7 billion in goods and services flows between the trading blocs.
Tariffs between the United States and European Union are already low, so a major focus of the talks will be on non-tariff barriers and harmonizing regulations to make it easier for companies to do business.
Cameron said the next five weeks are important to get the process launched in advance of the upcoming G8 summit in Ireland, where policies to advance global economic growth will be discussed.
"To realize the huge benefits this deal could bring will take ambition and political will - that means everything on the table, even the difficult issues, and no exceptions. It's worth the effort.
"For Britain alone, an ambitious deal could be worth up to 10 billion pounds a year, boosting industries from car manufacturing to financial services," he said during a joint press conference with President Obama.
The business community strongly backs a U.S.-EU free trade pact.
In formal comments submitted Friday to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
, the National Foreign Trade Councilurged officials not to backtrack on existing high standards set in the recent U.S.-Korea free trade agreement and other trade deals, or agree to any new barriers to trade and investment. The baseline for talks should start with the principles being followed in the current Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
NFTC urged both sides to involve their entire governments in the policy development process and to maximize existing and future regulatory compatibility wherever possible, including recognizing industry developed testing and voluntary consensus standards.
Priority issues for NFTC include boosting e-commerce, enhancing the framework for intellectual property rights protections, facilitating global mobility and tightening rules on state-owned enterprises.
"Expanding trade and investment through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will bolster U.S. economic growth, improve exports, increase jobs and benefit U.S. companies and the thousands of Americans they employ," NFTC said. "Additionally, it will serve as a roadmap for the rules based global trading and investment system to bring this promise of economic opportunity to all willing partners.
"We strongly urge the administration to make the swift negotiation and conclusion of TTIP a priority. We believe that a high-quality TTIP agreement, combined with a robust TPP agreement and Trade in Services Agreement will provide a modern framework for the conduct of business and improve the ability of American entrepreneurs, innovators and companies to engage in the global marketplace," the association said.
The Sierra Club's comments to the USTR
focused on its concern about the potential effects on climate disruption and other environmental issues from a trade deal.
"A trade alliance between the U.S. and the European Union could offer
an opportunity to improve safeguards across the Atlantic that protect our air,
water and other natural resources," Ilana Solomon, Sierra
Club trade representative, said in a statement. "However, a transatlantic trade and
investment agreement would have devastating consequences if free trade is
pursued at the expense of environmental protection and consumer and worker
The environmental group recommended governments retain the ability to take actions to reduce human impact on climate, including feed-in tariffs, a carbon cap or tax, and clean energy and energy efficiency standards without the threat of trade litigation. It also said the United States needs to put the brakes on exports of natural gas produced through fracking and urged the Energy Department to review the environmental impact of fracking and limit or deny exports of fracked gas from the United States to EU countries.
"Automatic exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas to the European Union, a significant importer of natural gas, would likely expand hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, across the United States and lead to higher domestic electricity prices, impacting consumers, U.S. manufacturing, and U.S. jobs," the Sierra Club said.
The group also called for transparent negotiations and opportunities for meaningful public and congressional input to the negotiations. - Eric Kulisch