U.S., EU Negotiators Propose to Eliminate Most Trade Tariffs

(Miami Herald/TNS) -

As they concluded the 11th round of talks aimed at forging a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States and the European Union, negotiators said Friday that they had exchanged proposals that would eliminate tariffs on 97 percent of imported goods.

Dan Mullaney, the chief U.S. negotiator, said he was “very encouraged” by the latest round of T-TIP negotiations, which were held in downtown Miami. The trade talks have been going on in various cities since July 2013, and Mullaney said it was important that the negotiations wrap up during the Obama administration.

“The next four months are going to be important to our hopes of completing T-TIP during the Obama administration,” he said.

Ignacio Garcia Bercero, the chief EU negotiator, said he thought the two sides were “one step” closer after a week of talks in Miami. “This has been a round of very hard work,” he said.

T-TIP is potentially the largest bilateral trade agreement in history, and the EU said that the two sides made “substantial progress on market access for EU and U.S. companies.”

García Bercero declined to say which products were the sticking points and fell within the 3 percent of goods that still aren’t included in both sides’ offers. “Those can only be discussed at a later stage when we are entering the end game,” he said.

Although tariffs on cross-Atlantic trade between the United States and EU nations are already relatively low — below 3 percent for the nearly $700 billion of products traded by the two sides — Mullaney said the United States had increased its offer of goods that could enter duty-free and will continue to work for complete tariff elimination.

The two sides also discussed regulatory cooperation, and the EU presented its proposal for sustainable development, including labor and environmental proposals. Garcia Bercero said cooperation on regulatory compliance would only be possible “if the protection for citizens remains the same.”

The 28 countries of the European Union together are already the U.S.’s largest trading partner. The free-trade pact is intended not only to eliminate tariffs, but also to dismantle non-tariff barriers to trade and streamline the regulatory process between the two trading blocs.

The two sides plan to continue talks in the coming weeks and have another negotiating round in February.