Creating a Barrier-Free Transatlantic Market
A discussion on the day of the US-EU summit, co-sponsored by the National Press Club and the Streit Council - April 30, 2007
Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Chairman, Transatlantic Policy Network
Rep. Phil English (R-PA), Member, Transatlantic Policy Network, and Co-chairman, Task Force on Trade
Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) , Vice Chairman, Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue and House Foreign Affairs Committee
Erika Mann, Member of the European Parliament, Committee on International Trade, and Chair, Transatlantic Policy Network - EU Steering Committee
The event was included in the prestigious Press Club's "Newsmaker Program" and featured influential politicians on both sides of the Atlantic who were deeply involved in the negotiations leading to the Framework Agreement (Framework for Advancing Transatlantic Economic Integration between the European Union and the United States of America) signed by US President George W. Bush, EU President Angela Merkel, and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso at the EU-US Summit on the same day.
The goal of creating a barrier-free transatlantic trade zone by 2015 - joining the world's largest economies - has gained momentum since German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for it in January 2007. Major US and European business and political organizations share the goal, saying it would boost growth and enhance competitiveness vis-à-vis China. Germany holds the rotating EU presidency and the EU has put the issue high on the April 30th US-EU summit agenda, viewing it as a way to rebuild transatlantic cooperation after tensions over Iraq and Doha.
Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT), Chairman of the Transatlantic Policy Network, pointed out that the aim of the agreement is to reduce non-tariff barriers. He quipped that one has to crash a car twice in order to sell it on both sides of the Atlantic: first to see if it meets the EU standards, and second to ascertain compliance with the US ones. While this does not make the car safer, it does increase the final cost. The Framework Agreement will decrease compliance costs by minimizing regulatory redundancy. Since the transatlantic market accounts for 60% of world GDP, common US-EU standards may easily become de facto world standards. Senator Bennett ended by remarking that the fact that Angela Merkel had received a firm commitment from Portugal and Slovenia, with which it shares the triple 18-month-long EU Presidency - a positive sign that the EU intends to ensure political continuity in its transatlantic projects.
Representative Phil English (R-PA), Member of the Transatlantic Policy Network and Co-Chairman of the Task Force on Trade, acknowledged that trade agreements were usually fraught with difficulties in the past, given the political baggage that they tend to carry. While such agreements with the EU are not likely to be marred by unsatisfactory labor or environmental standards, they can still evoke protectionist attitudes. The Framework Agreement was designed to circumvent political opposition on both sides of the Atlantic and strengthen the transatlantic partnership by encouraging regulatory integration.
Erika Mann, SPD (German Social Democratic Party) Member of the European Parliament (EP), and Member of both the EP Committee on International Trade and the EU Steering Committee of the Transatlantic Policy Network, stated that the present Framework is a much-needed acknowledgement of the size and importance of the transatlantic market. Because any future attempt to frame a transatlantic free trade agreement will have to tackle the issue of non-tariff trade barriers, the agreement signed on April 30th is a necessary step in the direction of deeper integration.
Representative Jim Costa (D-CA), Vice-Chairman of the Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, praised the creation of the Transatlantic Economic Council, which is tasked with overseeing regulatory unification. However, he emphasized that the process of building transatlantic institutions should be guided by a clear map and proposed 2015 as the target date for the completion of the transatlantic market.