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European Commission


Brussels, 13 February 2013

Remarks by EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Thank you Mr. President. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Allow me to begin by also underlining how pleased I am that our joint report is now published and gives both Europe and the United States the 'green light' to go for it.

Today's 'final report' provides us with the building blocks to achieve this 'Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership' but as the President stressed – this undertaking won't be easy. Ideally, we'd like to complete this work in about two years from now – but, more paramount than speed is achieving an ambitious deal.

It's true to say that such a 'transatlantic economic alliance' will be ground-breaking. An opportunity for us to shape our economic relationship for decades to come, and to work toward global rules.

We are already the world's most important trade partners – with business between us reaching 2 billion euros per day. But what also binds us right now – today – is the need to generate new growth into our economies.

So, the time is right to move forward. But what exactly is this all about?

First of all, we still need to dismantle any remaining traditional tariffs and then we need to make head-way on market access issues in other areas such as public procurement, services and investment.

Now it's important to understand that we already have very low tariff arrangements in place: on average a 4 per cent tariff on imports.

So, our main focus has to be to tackle those barriers which are behind the customs border – such as differences in technical regulations, standards and certifications. These often cost time and money. This is where we can make real savings for our businesses and bring better value for consumers.

In fact, such barriers are estimated to be equivalent to slapping a traditional tariff on a product of between 10 and 20 per cent – so the current cost to business and consumers is high.

Just let me give you one example: the barriers faced by European car manufacturers over their exports to the US.

Rules in the US and the EU on car safety are similarly strict – as public safety is always our top priority. So, perhaps it makes sense to look together at putting in place a system of 'mutual recognition'. This would maintain the strictest and highest safety levels for consumers but save manufacturers unnecessary double costs.

Finally, we need to work together on developing global rules and standards which will shape the future business environment of the world in the years to come.

So what's next? Each side must now follow its internal procedures – for us this means we'll now present a draft mandate to the Council.

Our shared objective is to launch negotiations during the 'Irish Presidency of the EU' - so by the summer - and then to push ahead with them as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your time and we'd be happy to answer a few questions.

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