EU to Press Froman on TTIP as Hogan Voices Skepticism

When U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman arrives in Brussels this week, he will meet his new European Union counterparts and also face a big dose of skepticism.

Any trans-Atlantic trade deal must respond to EU consumer needs, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said ahead of Froman’s Nov. 21 visit. “It cannot be bad or ugly,” she said today in her first major speech as trade chief.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan was blunter in his assessment of the trade deal’s chances. He told reporters in Brussels that negotiations should be shelved if the U.S. isn’t committed to moving quickly ahead of its 2016 presidential contest.

“We are engaging at the moment with the United States to establish if they’re serious about doing a deal in 2015,” Hogan said. “If Commissioner Malmstroem and I come to the conclusion that there is no appetite for a particular deal on a comprehensive basis, well then, I think that it will be put to one side until after the presidential election.”

U.S. and European leaders have said the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a top priority for the coming year, needed to boost economic growth and deepen ties. At the Group of 20 summit in Brisbane, U.S. President Barack Obama released a joint statement with the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain “to reaffirm our commitment to comprehensive and ambitious negotiations, in a spirit of mutual benefit.”

‘Rocket Boosters’

The pledge could put “rocket boosters” on negotiations, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said on the summit sidelines. He said leaders have agreed “this is a job we want to do.”

Trade talks between the U.S. and the EU aim to open up markets by cutting tariffs and harmonizing standards and regulations. Malmstroem said the deal won’t restrict future rule making.

“We have to focus our work on those areas where EU and U.S. regulations follow similar standards,” Malmstroem said. “That goes for car safety, factory inspections for pharmaceuticals and traceability of medical devices.”

The EU has resisted calls to change its standards on more divisive issues like genetically-modified food and hormone-treated beef.

“We won’t be sacrificing the quality of European Union beef markets and European beef on the high altar of maybe inferior products from the United States,” Hogan said. “They will have to shape up to the proper standards that we have in place.”

Export Surge

Ireland, which appointed Hogan as its new commissioner, has seen an export surge that has helped its economy return to growth after the financial crisis. Hogan said the EU hopes to extend similar export-led gains across the 28-nation bloc as part of its growth strategy.

The European Commission also is looking for ways to harness public and private funding to spur 300 billion euros ($376 billion) in new investment. This plan, due to be unveiled next week, will have a strong component related to food, rural development and agriculture issues, Hogan said.

“While the money might not be fresh in the 300 billion, if you can get your policy proposals included in the document that accompanies in it, well then you have some chance in the future of being able to refer to the importance of that doc in the context of money that might come when times are better in 2016 and beyond,” Hogan said.

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