Ways and Means towards a Future EU-US Trade and Investment Agreement

03-10-2012

The High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth (HLWG), established following the EU-US Summit in November 2011, has taken up its task of identifying synergies that could result from reducing or dismantling tariff and non-tariff barriers in transatlantic trade and investments. The European Commission's Directorate-General for Trade and the US Trade Representative (USTR) have also launched consultations amongst public and private stakeholder groups, with the aim of obtaining detailed information on which impediments to trade and investments are most acute and how they could be resolved. An interim report was published in June 2012. The final report of the HLWG, which should also contain recommendations for political leaders, is expected by the end of the year. The most far-reaching recommendation would be to begin negotiations on a transatlantic free trade and investment agreement. According to legislators on both sides of the Atlantic, the European Commission, EU Member States, the US government and business representatives, further liberalisation of trade and investments via a bilateral agreement would be generally welcomed. If the HLWG gives the go-ahead for bilateral negotiations, the devil will be in the details. Sticky technical barriers to trade exist, particularly in the field of agriculture, as do nontariff barriers, which are more difficult to overcome. However, the economic importance of the EU and the US to one another, their common values and mutual support of free trade should offer sufficient common ground for taking up the challenge.

The High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth (HLWG), established following the EU-US Summit in November 2011, has taken up its task of identifying synergies that could result from reducing or dismantling tariff and non-tariff barriers in transatlantic trade and investments. The European Commission's Directorate-General for Trade and the US Trade Representative (USTR) have also launched consultations amongst public and private stakeholder groups, with the aim of obtaining detailed information on which impediments to trade and investments are most acute and how they could be resolved. An interim report was published in June 2012. The final report of the HLWG, which should also contain recommendations for political leaders, is expected by the end of the year. The most far-reaching recommendation would be to begin negotiations on a transatlantic free trade and investment agreement. According to legislators on both sides of the Atlantic, the European Commission, EU Member States, the US government and business representatives, further liberalisation of trade and investments via a bilateral agreement would be generally welcomed. If the HLWG gives the go-ahead for bilateral negotiations, the devil will be in the details. Sticky technical barriers to trade exist, particularly in the field of agriculture, as do nontariff barriers, which are more difficult to overcome. However, the economic importance of the EU and the US to one another, their common values and mutual support of free trade should offer sufficient common ground for taking up the challenge.