- POSTED: 21 Dec 2013 01:23
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The United States and the European Union on Friday ended a third round of talks to create the world's largest free-trade area to boost growth and jobs in their huge economies.
WASHINGTON: The United States and the European Union (EU) on Friday ended a third round of talks to create the world's largest free-trade area to boost growth and jobs in their huge economies.
US and EU trade officials wrapped up five days of negotiations in Washington, where the talks began in July, to hammer out the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an ambitious agreement to expand trade, investment and regulatory cooperation.
The two economies combined make up 40 per cent of output in the world economy.
"I think we can be very satisfied by the end of this third round of talks," said the EU's chief negotiator, Ignacio Garcia Bercero, in a statement.
"We remain on track to deliver an ambitious trade and investment deal which will boost our economies, deliver growth and, more importantly, create jobs for both Europeans and Americans at a time when they're most needed."
Negotiators made progress on the three core parts of the TTIP - market access, regulatory aspects and rules - and these will be the focus for the round of talks expected in March, the EU said.
The US chief negotiator, Dan Mullaney, speaking at a news conference, said that the goal of the negotiations was to "minimize or eliminate the cost and barriers to trade and investment that are caused by unnecessary divergences."
The conclusion of the initial negotiations paves the way for a meeting of EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and US Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman to assess the progress early in 2014, the EU said.
Garcia Bercero said that the fourth round of negotiations would take place in Brussels, with dates to be announced soon.
In those talks, he said, negotiators expect to be able to identify a roadmap of areas where the TTIP could bring real savings to consumers and businesses by avoiding having to pay twice to meet two sets of regulations.
But Garcia Bercero stressed: "TTIP is not and will not be a deregulation agenda."
He said neither side intended to lower its high standards of consumer, environment, health, labour or data protection, or limit its autonomy in setting regulations.
Announced by President Barack Obama and EU leaders last February, the drive aims to further enhance the current trade relationship, which already averages low tariffs.
Both sides see opportunities to reduce non-tariff trade barriers in a bid to stimulate new businesses and job growth.
Transatlantic trade and investment currently supports 13 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, and the US and the EU are continuing to suffer high unemployment in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis.
At stake are a range of issues, from food and aviation safety, to electric car standards and energy.
Among the major challenges is market access for financial services, with the Europeans in particular pushing for greater harmonization of regulations.
The potential inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision in the trade deal has drawn sharp criticism from US and European organizations and unions.
In a letter to Froman and De Gucht on Monday, nearly 200 signatories, including Greenpeace, the International Trade Union Confederation, the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and ATTAC, called for negotiators to exclude ISDS, which allows corporations to challenge government policies before private trade tribunals.
"ISDS is a one-way street by which corporations can challenge government policies, but neither governments nor individuals are granted any comparable rights to hold corporations accountable," they wrote in the letter, obtained by AFP.
The EU estimates a TTIP deal would bring annual benefits of 119 billion euros ($163 billion) for the bloc's 28 member states and 500 million people, and only slightly less for the United States.
US and EU leaders have set their sights on completing an agreement by late 2014.