transatlantic trade


The calls in Europe to suspend the EU-US trade talks, in response to allegations that the US has been bugging EU offices, reminds me of the scepticism of some American officials, before the talks were even launched. “The only question in my mind,” said one, “is whether the French use their veto in six months time, or in two years time.” The Americans feared that French protectionist instincts would come into play over agriculture or culture. In the event, the Americans have only themselves to blame – since their cyber-snooping has given Europeans plenty to get outraged about. Read more

Nicole Bricq (Getty)

Nicole Bricq, France’s trade minister, appeared to be relishing the role of holding out for the “l’exception culturelle” when she hosted a group of journalists in Paris on Thursday morning, a day before she was due to meet of her EU colleagues in Luxembourg to discuss terms for opening trade talks with the US.

“France’s position has not changed today and I don’t believe it will change tomorrow. We’ll say no. There will be a political blockage, a veto if you want to call it that,” she declared.

She added: “I cannot imagine that engagement in an accord of this importance can go ahead without the support of France. Without France a thing like this has no chance of success.” Read more

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Half of all world exports are from the US and Europe. Added together, the two constitute the largest, wealthiest market in the world, accounting for over 54% of world GDP in terms of value and 40% in terms of purchasing power. There are many reasons why a trade deal between the two makes sense in the minds of both policymakers and business-owners (a successful pact would boost growth and jobs in both regions, and offer the US and EU a better chance of standing up to an increasingly powerful China, for example).

So why are negotiators working on the deal probably in for the long haul? One reason is that there are some culturally sensitive areas for both regions – in particular, agriculture and food. Here are some potential sticking points:

For US exporters trying to get their products into the EU –

For EU exporters trying to get their products into the US –
  • Buy America. The US fiscal stimulus of 2009 restricted bidding on iron and steel contracts so that only US producers could take part, or producers from countries with a ‘reciprocal government procurement agreement’

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