European and U.S. officials kicked off five days of negotiations this week on a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement, despite protests and threats to call off the talks from countries throughout the EU over revelations of the American electronic spying program. The discussions, which were already postponed once during the U.S. government shutdown, faced added uncertainty amid outrage over reports that the U.S. National Security Agency tapped the phones of European leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, prompting several EU officials to call for this week’s talks be suspended.
But the potential payoff of a trade agreement, a tariff-busting pact that would create the world’s largest free-trade area and create millions of jobs, outweighed those concerns according to most EU officials. The negotiating teams are expected to concentrate on services, investment, and energy and raw materials. They also will examine regulatory issues, with officials on both sides saying that cutting red tape and harmonizing some rules and regulations could do more to boost economic activity than easing tariffs, which are already relatively low.
Liberalizing trade across the Atlantic could bring in nearly $160 billion more a year to Europe, which has been struggling to recover from a damaging recession and the region’s lingering debt crisis. European officials are also eager to find ways to counter a looming demographic disadvantage compared to the U.S. and China as birthrates in Europe drop and work forces age. To read more, click HERE.