Washington | Negotiators from the United States and the European Union will resume talks on a huge trans-Atlantic free trade area, with mistrust and public opposition standing in their way. The 11th round of discussions, to be held in Miami, will address a still substantial list of differences on key issues between the two sides, after more than two years of talks on the ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
But they come after Washington scored a major triumph with the agreement two weeks ago to set up a Pacific free trade group with Japan, Canada and nine other countries. Both groupings aim at broadly lowering trade tariffs and non-tariff barriers, a relatively small issue between the United States and Europe, where trade taxes are already very low. But they also aim higher, at setting what the White House calls the rules for 21st century trade and investment, with special focus on digital trade and intellectual property issues, and on harmonizing regulations for global business.
A deal would tie together two giant economies that are home to some 850 million people and account for about half of global output. But the success of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Talks will not necessarily make the hefty task of getting Americans and Europeans to agree on a similar project any easier.
Supporters say a transatlantic trade deal will give a strong boost to economic growth and job creation. But on both sides of the ocean, most intensely in Europe, the talks have been branded a Trojan horse over a broad and secretive watering down of important public regulations that could threaten health and environmental standards to the benefit of powerful multinational corporations. Showing that the opposition has not weakened, the Stop TRIP movement has collected three million signatures in support of its effort to halt the negotiations.
It drew as many as 250,000 people to an anti-TRIP protest in Berlin on October 10. Politicians on both sides are also expressing misgivings, especially around the intense secrecy of the negotiations, with a top French official recently lashing out at Washington’s stance. There has to be substantial changes in the general mindset, that is in trust, reciprocity, and access to documents, French Foreign Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said early this month, warning of a halt, pure and simple to the talks.
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