US and EU leaders approve wide-ranging trade talks

Deal approved on sidelines of G8 summit in Fermanagh has potential to generate revenue in excess of €300 billion for global economy

US president Barack Obama, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso and British prime minister David Cameron at a news conference at the G8 summit in Enniskillen. Photograph: Andrew Winning/WPA Pool/Getty Images

US president Barack Obama, European Commission president José Manuel Barroso and British prime minister David Cameron at a news conference at the G8 summit in Enniskillen. Photograph: Andrew Winning/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Tue, Jun 18, 2013, 11:28


European and US leaders meeting in Fermanagh have given the go-ahead to formal talks in Washington next month on an EU-US trade deal.

It is an initiative they say that has potential to boost the world economy by more than €300 billion.

The talks follow an agreement brokered in Luxembourg last week by Ireland’s EU presidency in which trade ministers settled a mandate for European negotiators.

The mandate excludes the French audio-visual sector at the behest of Paris, raising concern that copycat claims for special treatment may be made on the American side.


Bilateral trade deals
The complex initiative comes five years after the collapse of global trade talks, a breakdown which has led EU leaders to pursue dozens of bilateral trade deals throughout the world.

Leaders are conscious, however, that previous efforts to forge a European deal with the United States failed to deliver.

There are many potential pitfalls, one of them agriculture. The US is keen to see the elimination of the EU ban on hormone-enhanced beef.

“The potential is enormous. We would see several thousand jobs for Ireland coming out of this,” said Taoiseach Enda Kenny after talks on the sideslines of the G8 summit with US president Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Italy.

“It was one of the aims and priorities of the Irish presidency. In fact I spoke to President Obama about this two years ago . . . That’s been well recognised here today on everybody’s side,” said Mr Kenny. “I think we should start with ones that are clearly non-contentious. I think it’s possible to have a modular development where it is possible to have issues in isolation dealt with.”

British prime minister David Cameron said there was potential in the anticipated agreement, which could take two years or more to pin down, to create as many as two million jobs.


Seizing opportunity
Saying the aim to reach “the biggest bilateral trade deal in history”, Mr Cameron said the European economy could benefit to the tune of £100 billion (€118 billion), with the American economy expanding by some £80 billion and the rest of the world economy by £85 billion.

“This is a once-in-a-generation prize and we are determined to seize it,” said Mr Cameron.

Mr Obama, who thanked the Taoiseach and the other European leaders, said the anticipated deal was “potentially groundbreaking”.

“It is important that we get it right. And that means resisting the temptation to downsize our ambitions or avoid tough issues just for the sake of getting a deal,” said Mr Obama. “It’s important that we also make sure that it’s part of an overall plan to do what it takes to promote growth and jobs.”

The negotiations will be executed on the European side by the European Commission, whose chief, José Manuel Barroso, said the aim was to move quickly.

“We can say that neither of us will give up content for the sake of speed, but we intend to make rapid progress. I’d rather see the core challenge, moving our regulatory regimes closer, and addressing the harmful effect of behind-the-border trade barriers,” said Mr Barroso. “Huge economic benefits are expected from reducing red tape, avoiding divergent regulations for the future.”