Tariffs focus of 11th round of talks on EU-US trade deal

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The United States and the European Union are seeking progress on tariffs during the latest round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations this week in Miami.

The 11th round of talks, which began Monday and are to conclude Friday, are to further address harmonizing regulations and new rules for public procurement.

Brussels and Washington have been negotiating the trade deal, which would create the world’s largest free trade area with 800 million people, since 2013. Despite running past the initial schedule, Malmstrom said talks were making progress.

“We have invested so much political and economic capital in this, so neither [of us] want to see it fail,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in an interview last week with dpa and two other international media outlets.

The two sides wanted to strike a preliminary deal by the end of this year, ahead of the 2016 US presidential election campaign.

Malmstrom said much now depends on Washington, which will have to determine if “they can conclude it and then leave the ratification for the next administration, or if they feel that this particular element is too sensitive to push through in an electoral year.”

She said negotiators “need to get it right.” That could mean the deal would be concluded under US President Barack Obama, and then “have to pause and see what happens with the next administration,” she said.

Proponents of TTIP say that it will significantly boost economic growth and jobs. Backers say it would act as a counterweight to China’s growing economic power, but critics worry that it would water down consumer protection provisions and allow corporations to block regulations they oppose.

In a speech Monday, Malmstrom pointed out that exports to the US support 5 million jobs across the EU.

“Europe needs an economic boost,” she said. “More trade and investment with the US can provide it because it’s the largest market in the world after the European Union.”

Malmstrom argued that US and European regulations are “very similar” in most areas and “in some cases US rules are even stronger.”

The deal has met resistance particularly in Europe. Almost half of Germans feel the deal is “a bad thing,” according to a survey published Friday by TNS Emnid. Only 34 per cent thought it was “a good thing.”

An anti-TTIP march in early October in Berlin drew 250,000 people, according to organizers.

TTIP has not faced strong opposition in the US, where the spotlight has been on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). On October 5, 12 Pacific Rim countries reached the trade pact, which will lift most duties on trade and investment, set new business standards and protect intellectual property rights.

TPP negotiations stretched five years.

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