Obama told business executives who are part of his advisory council on exports that he’s “modestly optimistic” that U.S. and European Union negotiators can reach a trans-Atlantic accord in the wake of Europe’s financial crisis.
“They are hungrier for a deal than they have been in the past” as European nations struggle to reignite economic growth, the president said. “You’re going to see more pressure from more countries” to get an accord and set aside agricultural protections that have been a barrier to deals in the past.
Obama created the council in March 2010, laying out a goal of doubling U.S. exports to about $3.14 trillion by the end of 2014 from $1.57 trillion in 2009. The president has said reaching the goal would support 2 million additional jobs. Obama is placing a focus on trade in his second term, after winning congressional support in 2011 for accords with South Korea, Colombia and Panama that were negotiated by President George W. Bush’s administration.
Obama said gains last year in agriculture, manufacturing and high-technology exports have helped and the progress isn’t limited to large corporations.
“Small businesses stand to benefit immensely from this process,” he said.
The export council reported today that the U.S. has achieved about “47 percent, 50 percent” of the goal, according to Jim McNerney, chief executive officer of Boeing Co. (BA) and chairman of the council. Ursula Burns, Xerox Corp. (XRX)’s CEO, is vice chairman of the council.
The Obama administration has set goals of achieving trade deals in the Atlantic and the Pacific.
The U.S. and European Union aim to complete trade talks within two years on a deal that would expand their economic relationship. The 27-nation EU says the accord will seek to lower tariffs, ease regulatory barriers and expand access in investment, services and public procurement, among other steps.
The EU plans to present draft negotiating plans this month to kick-start the talks, which it says may lead to an accord that will add 86 billion euros ($116 billion) a year to the bloc’s economy.
While trade and investment between the U.S. and the EU was valued at $4.5 trillion in 2011, the two governments have been at odds over issues including farm subsidies, health protections and regulatory standards.
The U.S. also is negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 10 other nations, which is meant to increase America’s role as a manufacturing center.
Obama also is meeting today with the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, in preparation for October meetings of leaders from Asian nations where the U.S. wants to broaden trade.
Negotiating both accords is possible because they are on separate tracks, according to Ken Monahan, senior trade analyst at Bloomberg Government. The nations seeking a Pacific trade pact have targeted late this year to complete those talks, while the U.S. and EU probably won’t reach an agreement until next year at the earliest, he said.
Officials drafting the TPP agreement, which would create the nation’s largest trade region, have reported progress on lowering customs barriers and meshing health standards. Negotiators are meeting in Singapore through March 13 for their 16th round of talks. Discussions cover issues including financial services, the environment, intellectual property and labor.
The trans-Pacific talks, if successful, will help create “millions of jobs,” Obama said today.
The nations working to forge the regional accord with the U.S. are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. U.S. automakers including Ford Motor Co. (F) and General Motors Co. (GM) have said Japan shouldn’t be allowed to participate until it further opens its auto market to foreign competition.
To contact the reporter on this story: Roger Runningen in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org