The European Commission agreed Tuesday negotiating guidelines for talks with the United States on the world's biggest Free Trade Agreement, stressing a pragmatic approach to even sensitive subjects.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht told a press conference at the European Parliament that the sooner we begin, the sooner we can achieve an agreement that benefits all sides.
Both parties would have to adapt: it is time to have a look in the mirror ... to see the big picture and make the changes needed, de Gucht said.
He also said he wanted to lay to rest longstanding concerns that Europe’s cherished cultural sector would be vulnerable or that Europe would give too much away on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).
Europe's cultural sector did very well on the global stage and individual states would still be allowed to support their arts, he said, while GMO legislation will not change despite use of GMO being widespread across the Atlantic.
The accord should be as comprehensive as possible even if not all areas were nailed down conclusively, de Gucht said.
What is important is that you have an agreement on the bulk of what you want to achieve, he said, adding: I think that should be possible in a reasonable time span.
From Washington US President Barack Obama said Europe was now more ready to conclude an FTA, including tackling problem areas such as agriculture, to seek a way out of its economic woes.
What I think has changed is the recognition throughout Europe that it is hard for them to figure out a recipe for growth at this point, in part because of the austerity measures that have been put in place throughout Europe. So they're hungrier for a deal than they've been in the past, Obama said.
A Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would create the world's largest free trade area, liberalize investment and harmonize regulation, boosting economic growth and jobs. The immediate financial gains are put at 119 billion Euros a year for the EU and 95 billion Euros for the US, according to a report drawn up for the Commission.
“Forging new trade deals with Europe and ten countries in the Asia-Pacific region would be an important part of my second-term agenda to spur economic growth and create jobs” added the US president.
What we know is that a lot of the growth, a lot of the new jobs that we've seen during the course of this recovery have been export driven, Obama said at a meeting of the President's Export Council, which brings together corporate leaders and members of Obama's Cabinet to discuss trade issues.
The question now becomes how do we sustain this momentum? Part of it is making sure we get in place strong trade deals.
The statement reflected how far Obama has moved on trade since early in his administration, when he frustrated many business leaders for not moving quickly to enact free-trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea left over from Republican President George W. Bush's administration.