[A2k] Bridges Weekly: Signs of Early Hurdles as Momentum Builds Toward Launch of US-EU Trade Talks

Thirukumaran Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Mar 27 23:38:57 PDT 2013


Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest • Volume 17 • Number 11 • 27th March 2013

Signs of Early Hurdles as Momentum Builds Toward Launch of US-EU Trade Talks

Preparations for the planned launch of trade talks between Washington and Brussels have continued to advance, with the White House formally notifying Congress last week of its intent to conduct negotiations. However, efforts to begin the talks by summer are already facing some early hurdles, with concerns being raised by some - most notably France - over each side’s sensitive items.


“It is out of the question to work with a mandate that is hurriedly put together,” French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq told reporters on Monday, while stressing that Paris ultimately does wish to see a deal.

Specifically, Bricq outlined “culture” issues - in other words, French laws that permit the restriction of foreign radio and television programmes and ensure government support to domestic films - and rules on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as topics that would be “non-negotiable” in any trade talks.


The wait for a nomination of a new USTR has also raised questions in Washington of how the US’ negotiating abilities will be affected, particularly with the planned launch of talks with Brussels and the US’ efforts with 10 other countries to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement this year. While various names have been floated over the past few months as possible contenders for the role, the Obama Administration has yet to formally announce its candidate. Whoever is ultimately chosen for the post will have to be confirmed by the US Senate, a potentially thorny process.

Meanwhile, the US “sequester” - and the additional budget cuts being proposed in a “continuing resolution” making its way through Congress - could have damaging impacts on the USTR’s ability to properly take on negotiations with the EU and other countries, Marantis cautioned during a Senate panel hearing last week.

“It is important to note that continued budget cuts and resource constraints could significantly compromise USTR’s capabilities,” he told the Senate Finance Committee, which deals with trade issues in that chamber. “Already, we face the possibility that the sequester alone will hamper our ability to conduct trade negotiations and other market-opening efforts, as well as initiate new enforcement disputes.”

The looming battle over whether to re-instate Trade Promotion Authority - an expired provision in US law also known as “fast track,” which allows for the executive branch to negotiate trade deals and then submit them to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote - is also expected to be key in moving forward any negotiations. Without such a mechanism in place, analysts say that the US’ negotiating partners might be hesitant to advance trade deals.

While the Obama Administration has said that it is interested in pursuing TPA renewal, some lawmakers have said that the White House is not moving quickly enough to engage with Congress on the matter.


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

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