EU-US trade pact could deliver €800m boost for Ireland, says Bruton

EU trade commissioner says deal possible if he gets early mandate


A trade deal between the European Union and the United States could add €800 million to the Irish economy and create up to 4,000 jobs, Richard Bruton said yesterday.

The Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation was speaking after an informal council of EU trade ministers, which had been attended, in part, by US president Barrack Obama’s chief trade negotiator.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, also speaking at Dublin Castle, said the successful liberalisation of trade and investment between the European Union and the US could prove to be a turning point for their 700 million inhabitants.

‘Sense of excitement’
Mr Kenny said there was a “sense of excitement and eagerness” to agree a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, adding that the Government had prioritised the issue during its presidency of the EU.

With “clear political consensus on both sides of the Atlantic” to complete the deal, he said it had the potential to greatly expand a trade and investment relationship that has long been the biggest in the world.

In pursuit of that objective, he has visited 11 US cities since becoming Taoiseach, he said.

Along with the 27 EU trade ministers and the European commissioner for trade Karel de Gucht, US president Barack Obama’s chief trade negotiator Michael Froman was invited to attend part of the ministerial meeting.

Mr Bruton, who chaired the meeting, said its informal nature had allowed a greater focus on strategic issues.

Speaking at a press briefing, Mr Bruton expressed optimism that the ministers would agree a mandate in June that would allow Mr de Gucht to begin negotiations with the US. He said the the completion of the partnership could lead to the creation of 4,000 additional jobs in Ireland and add €800 million to gross domestic product annually.

Mr de Gucht spoke of the trade partnership as a “cheap stimulus package” that could be worth €500 each year to every household in the EU.

The very act of agreeing such a deal would act as a further stimulus, he said, because it would reduce uncertainty for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.

‘Search for solutions’
He went on to say that negotiators would have to be “aggressively in the search for solutions” to dismantling of remaining tariff barriers (taxes on imported goods) and the lowering of non-tariff barriers, such as costly customs checks.

Mr de Gucht siad that the transatlantic partnership could be concluded by the time the current commission’s term ends in the second half of 2014, provided member states give him the mandate to start negotiations in June.

Mr Froman said his country would do everything to support the rules-based global trading system and that multilateral liberalisation was “the ultimate goal”.

Despite this, he said that completing the current round of global trade talks, known as the Doha round, was “not feasible”. In order to drive trade liberalisation, the US was continuing to negotiate bilateral deals with its trading partners.

Noting that past efforts to lower transatlantic trade and investment barriers had been “modest”, Mr Froman said that now was the right time to push the transatlantic partnership. “The US and the EU can lean lead on global rules and standards,” he added.

French reservations
Significantly, the only EU trade minister to hold a press conference at Dublin Castle yesterday was Nicole Bricq of France. France has traditionally been the EU member state that has shown least enthusiasm for trade liberalisation and has acquired a reputation as the most protectionist-minded member country.

Ms Bricq questioned the size of the gains in jobs and economic growth from the putting in place of the partnership between the EU and the US, and cautioned against moving too fast to negotiate a deal.

She said that “partnership” was a very strong word in French and that it required a respect for the values and interests of both sides.

She was emphatic in reaffirming France’s traditional opposition to the freeing of trade in areas of culture and defence, saying that neither item could form part of the European Commission’s negotiating mandate.