EU and US trade negotiators have identified most of the areas of disagreement on which they will work in an effort to conclude what would be the world’s biggest trade deal.
They fended off questions on the US spying scandal and the implications for the US knowing the EU positions in advance of negotiations, saying that surveillance and data privacy issues were being considered by a separate group in parallel.
Experts from both sides worked on 13 areas for the past week in Washington to identify those they need to find solutions for and technical work will continue up to the next formal meeting in Brussels on Oct 7.
Three of the most difficult areas — agriculture, financial services and environmental issues — were discussed yesterday, the final day of this first round of talks.
According to a study, the agreement should see EU exports to the US increase by more than a quarter and worth an extra €545 a year to a family of four in the EU.
The emphasis is on cutting administrative costs, including regulations on standards which the EU says would provide 80% of the overall gains since tariffs are already low at, on average, just 4% of costs.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Ignacio Garcia-Bercero, said the week had been very productive and said the way was paved for a good second round of negotiations in Brussels in October.
Negotiations on the US side are led by Dan Mullaney who said each of the negotiation groups met to identify what was needed to make progress between now and the second round.
Each had arranged to continue interim meetings by various means — face to face, emails, video-conferences and he did not see a mini-round.
Mr Garcia-Bercero said their aim was not to harmonise everything both sides do, but to work on the basis that both should be able to maintain the level of protection that is appropriate.
High-ranking US officials have already said they would hope that both sides would recognise and accept one another’s standards and testing techniques for example, rather than insisting one side changes it systems.
Food, such as hormone beef and GM products, are two major issues with the EU saying they were not really on the table but the US insisting they were. Mr Garcia-Bercero said these issues had been discussed between them for a long time and they were ready to continue the discussions.
Mr Mullaney said that these agriculture areas were extremely important in this agreement.
On financial services, Mr Garcia-Bercero said they planned to set up a strong framework to help and guide regulatory cooperation and would work intensively on this and with a view to implementing what was being agreed by the G20.
The areas being covered include market access for agricultural and industrial goods, government procurement, investment, energy and raw materials, regulatory issues, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, services, intellectual property rights, sustainable development, small and medium-sized enterprises, dispute settlement, competition, customs/trade facilitation, and state-owned enterprises.
The negotiators held a two-day session with about 370 stakeholders from business, NGOs, consumers groups, academics and trade unions.
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