A high-level panel of experts yesterday pointed out the mutual economic benefits of a broad transatlantic trade pact between the United States and the European Union. At the event, co-sponsored by Meridian International Center, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Spanish think tank Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies (FAES), the Center for the Study of Presidency and Congress, and the Ronald Reagan Building and Trade Center, the speakers emphasized the significant contributions to jobs and growth a trade agreement between the two parties would bring. They noted that the title of the proposed agreement endorsed by both the U.S. and the EU is “The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.”
Leading off the program was the former president of Spain, José María Aznar, who spoke of the need to bring the U.S. and the EU together in a trade partnership to formalize the strong economic and cultural ties that already exist and to remove still existing trade barriers. He noted that such an agreement would not only enhance the competitiveness of these developed countries, but also could help promote the free exchange of goods and services throughout the world. Aznar pointed to the just-published report by FAES, “TAFTA: The Case for an Open Transatlantic Free Trade Area,” which provides a roadmap for removing tariff and non-tariff barriers.
AT&T’s senior executive vice president James W. Cicconi was a strong proponent of the need for closer ties between the two economic powerhouses and expressed his support for overcoming the challenges to greater growth and innovation. In the panel discussion, Myron Brilliant, executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was asked why the impetus for this agreement arose now. Brilliant noted that there were four pushing points: the economic crisis, the conclusion of the presidential election, the need for Trade Promotion Authority, and the impasse in the WTO’s Doha Round.
In his discussion, the Spanish secretary of state for commerce, Jaime Garcia-Legaz Ponce, noted that from an EU perspective the most important issues are the regulatory barriers between the U.S. and the EU. However, he said, that does not mean harmonizing regulations, but rather acknowledging that each country has similar standards and to approach the issues through “mutual recognition.”
Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Miriam Sapiro emphasized the goals of the partnership. She said that while tariffs are low between the parties, even a further reduction in tariffs would reap enormous benefits. Sapiro also suggested that in dealing with regulatory issues, the countries might look at sectors, at disciplines that cut across sectors, but must ensure transparency. She said that the agreement must address global challenges, such as localization measures and state-owned enterprises.
Former congressman Cliff Stearns was asked what would cause negotiations to flounder. Stearns said that strong leadership by the president would be needed, especially in dealing with the House.
In terms of when such a trade agreement would possibly be concluded, panelists concurred that it would be at least a year out – with Brilliant saying possibly after the mid-term elections in 2014.