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European Commission


Strasbourg, 12 March 2013

European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht: A negotiating mandate for a trade and investment agreement with the United States

Ladies and gentlemen: thank you for coming here today. The European Commission has this afternoon given its green light to the proposal for the European negotiation mandate for a future EU – US trade deal.

I am especially pleased since this key step to gearing up to the actual start of negotiations comes just one month after the initial announcement by Presidents Obama, Barroso and Van Rompuy to go for this ground-breaking trade deal.

This one month timeframe shows just how committed the Commission is to maintaining the momentum already in place. So, now this draft mandate passes to our Member States for their approval and I hope they will decide quickly to open negotiations so we can begin work ahead of the summer break. Put simply, the sooner we begin, the sooner we can achieve an agreement that benefits both sides. 

The proposed mandate provides me and my team with Europe’s objectives in this negotiation – so understandably this remains confidential. That said; let me provide you with some broad strokes in order to keep you in the picture as best I can.

Let me say that the overall objectives are based very much on the conclusions of the High Level Working Group which are already public since the initial announcement a month ago. Central to this is the need for both sides to have a pragmatic approach to tackle any difficulties on the path to a successful conclusion.

First of all, we will work to reduce remaining product tariffs – currently at 4 per cent on average to zero either immediately or over fixed time periods. Also, we will seek ambitious market access in services and procurement.

Second, as I explained in the press conference a month ago, the real challenge for both sides is to tackle the many ‘behind the border’ barriers to trade that exist within regulations or domestic standards.

It is simply human nature to think that your set of rules is the best. However, it’s time for both of us as mature economies, as mature trade partners to take a good look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we can improve the way we work together to benefit people and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. 

What we will see is the need to cut down on the red-tape and improve the way we regulate which often creates double costs for our companies. We will take a step back with our American partners - try to see the big picture - and really try to make our trade relationship more lean, efficient and cost-effective as a result.

Let me also take this opportunity 'to lay to rest' some persistent concerns and rumors. It is true that Europe and the US have differing views on some core issues regarding, for example, food safety. Take GMOs: we each have different views today and we will have different views after the negotiations. However, a future deal will not change the existing GMO legislation; let me repeat "no change".

I am also fully aware of the sensitivities on certain issues including the audiovisual sector and of course this will be duly taken into account during the negotiations which, I should add, have not started yet. We are still at an early stage in this process.

The agreement will not force a change of current practices in the Member States. Member States will continue to be able to support their cultural industries and the audiovisual sector in particular, such as through broadcasting quota or subsidies, as foreseen in the current EU directives.

So yes, we will be very mindful of these sensitivities, as we approach these negotiations in a pragmatic way. At the same time – on the audiovisual sector – we should be very aware of the success of Europe on the global stage. Europe has for many years supported its film industry – for example through the MEDIA programme. We should and must be proud and confident in what Europe has to offer.

European film industry receives more than 100 million euros a year from the MEDIA fund. It will continue to receive funding under the new Creative Europe programme, which starts in 2014.

Now on the potential financial benefits for both sides, let me also present to you today an outside study prepared for the Commission. I hope this can give you a clearer idea of what the real benefits can be.

An ambitious and comprehensive Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership could bring significant economic gains as a whole for the EU – estimated at €119 billion euros a year - and for the US around €95 billion euros a year once the agreement is fully implemented. This translates to an extra - on average - €545 euros in disposable income each year for a family of 4 in the EU.

An example of a key sector set to see significant gains is the car industry. This industry has a mix of existing tariffs combined with non-tariff barriers. Car safety is paramount in America like it is Europe – yet we currently have different procedures to get a new car design approved for the road. Yet, I feel just as safe when I drive a car in the US as I do when I drive a car in Europe. So we should try to find ways to align our systems to cut costs without compromising on car safety.

And finally, let me clearly state that the benefits for the EU and US will not be at the expense of the rest of the world. On the contrary, liberalising trade between the EU and the US would have a positive impact on worldwide trade and incomes, increasing global income by almost €100 billion.

Thank you for your time.

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