[A2k] New York Times: U.S. Official Lobbies for Trans-Atlantic Trade Pact

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Mon Mar 24 13:11:35 PDT 2014


*http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/business/international/us-official-lobbies-for-trans-atlantic-trade-pact.html
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/business/international/us-official-lobbies-for-trans-atlantic-trade-pact.html>*

U.S. Official Lobbies for Trans-Atlantic Trade Pact

By JAMES KANTER<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/james_kanter/index.html>MARCH
23, 2014

BRUSSELS -- Completing a landmark trans-Atlantic trade agreement could help
Europe wean itself from reliance on Russian energy supplies, the United
States trade representative, Michael Froman, has said.

Mr. Froman made his comments here on Saturday before a visit by President
Obama that is scheduled to start on Tuesday evening, with a summit meeting
of European Union<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/e/european_union/index.html?inline=nyt-org>
and
United States officials set for the following day. The Transatlantic Trade
and Investment Partnership, now being negotiated, is among the items Mr.
Obama is set to discuss with Herman Van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso, the
union's top officials.

Mr. Obama's visit, scheduled before the crisis erupted in Crimea, will be
his first to Brussels since he took office. Energy is expected to be a key
topic at the meeting because of the heightened tensions with
Russia<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/russiaandtheformersovietunion/index.html?inline=nyt-geo>
.

Russia has cut natural
gas<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/energy-environment/natural-gas/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>
supplies
to Europe a number of times in the past decade during disputes with
Ukraine<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/ukraine/index.html?inline=nyt-geo>
and
other transshipment countries, prompting severe shortages in parts of the
union.

Encouraging the export of American natural gas to Europe "is yet another
rationale for completing" the trade talks, Mr. Froman told the Brussels
Forum, a conference organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United
States.

Mr. Froman suggested that if a far-reaching trade agreement were in place,
it would be a good deal easier for the Department of Energy to grant
licenses to companies wishing to export shale gas from the United States.
"If you're a free trade agreement country, those licenses are deemed to be
in the public interest," Mr. Froman said during a panel discussion with the
European Union trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht.

Earlier on Saturday, Mr. Froman told reporters that "recent developments
just underscore the importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship," adding,
"From both a strategic and economic perspective, the rationale for the
T.T.I.P. could never be stronger."

Although European and American officials trumpet the importance of the
trans-Atlantic alliance, there are thorny elements in the relationship. The
last time the two sides held a similar meeting, in Washington in November
2011, the United States was concerned that European leaders' insistence on
austerity was a threat to the global economy.

More recently, relations were soured by National Security Agency spying,
including tapping of the cellphone of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

The start of negotiations for a trade deal was announced with great fanfare
last year, and European officials, eager to find ways of stoking confidence
in the region's beleaguered economy, expressed optimism about reaching an
agreement by 2015. Since then, in the course of four rounds of talks in
Brussels and Washington, progress has been slower than many officials had
hoped.

There are widespread concerns among Europeans that any agreement with the
United States would jeopardize environmental and food
safety<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/f/food_safety/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>
standards.
Some American companies are concerned that protections for investors will
not be part of a deal. Even in the relatively straightforward area of
tariff reductions, the two sides have yet to reach agreement on how various
industrial sectors should be treated.

Another round of talks is expected to be held in Washington before summer.

There are many companies willing to export American natural gas. There also
is demand in union member countries like Poland and Lithuania for American
energy as part of efforts to break their reliance on Russian sources.
Russia currently supplies about a quarter of the union's natural gas needs,
but some former members of the Soviet bloc are almost entirely dependent on
Russian energy.

Yet a number of American manufacturers doubt the wisdom of the United
States' exporting cheap shale gas.

"We're not trying to block anything," Heinz Haller, president of Dow
Europe, Middle East and Africa, told a separate panel at the Brussels
Forum. But he suggested that exporting shale gas could raise American
energy prices at a time when "the U.S. needs to repatriate a lot of
industry."

"There is nobody who is saying we should not have free trade in this, but
only when it makes economic sense," Mr. Haller said.

Even so, there are 28 gas export permits awaiting approval by the
Department of Energy. Approvals typically take three or four months,
according to Nelson W. Cunningham, a former White House adviser who now is
president of McLarty Associates, a consulting firm whose clients include
energy companies.

In an interview, Mr. Cunningham said that even without a trans-Atlantic
trade pact in place, export approvals should be accelerated to help Eastern
Europe secure non-Russian sources of energy.

He said the United States authorities should consider allowing companies
"to jump the queue" for export licenses if they could show the gas would go
to Eastern Europe.



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