The European Union’s top trade negotiator said he opposes excluding or carving out categories of goods from an agreement now being negotiated that would create the world’s largest trading region.
“I’m against carve-outs because I believe that when you aim at a comprehensive agreement it should be possible to discuss about everything,” Karel De Gucht, trade commissioner for the 27-nation European Union, said today during an interview for “Bloomberg TV’s MoneyMoves with Deirdre Bolton.”
If concluded, a U.S.-EU accord would create a trading area that would account for almost half of the world’s economic output, according to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office. Officials from each side have said they plan to complete negotiations by the end of 2014.
De Gucht in a separate interview said “you would easily lose six months” if the talks aren’t complete by the time the next European Commission takes office in November 2014. “Let’s not speculate about it, because it’s not giving us a lot today,” he said.
Negotiators plan for the bilateral accord to lower tariffs on trade between the partners, which would reduce costs for U.S. exporters including Dow Chemical Co. and Boeing Co. by about $6.4 billion a year, according to a Nov. 2 study from Bloomberg Government. President Barack Obama, EU President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Barroso on Feb. 13 pledged to pursue a trade agreement.
“If we manage to have an agreement, I’m sure that it would give an important boost to our economies, also to the world economy,” De Gucht said. “I think we would be able to establish, in a lot of domains, norms and standards that become the benchmark worldwide.”
The pact would cover so-called 21st century issues including Internet data-flows, financial services and smaller companies’ access to international markets. The transatlantic trading partners in the past have disagreed over issues including farm subsidies, health and safety rules and regulatory standards that pose a challenge to completing the talks within 18 months.
Disagreements over agricultural trade that have weighed on previous bilateral efforts may bog down discussions, said James Grueff, a former negotiator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Issues including health and farm- and food-safety standards “are not going to be resolved between July of this year and December of 2014,” he said said May 17 at Washington International Trade Association event. “There is a certain disconnect” in saying that these issues are open to negotiation and expecting them to be resolved within the next 18 months, he said.
De Gucht said he isn’t daunted by the scope of the talks.
“Whether it’s too big to succeed, I don’t think so,” De Gucht said. “But it’s certainly too big to fail.”