The US and EU have launched negotiations for a free-trade deal as the G-8 conference begins in Northern Ireland. A concession on creative pursuits helped to keep France on board.
The first round of negotiations toward the free-trade deal will take place in Washington in July, US President Barack Obama said, speaking at the Group of Eight summit near the Northern Ireland town of Enniskillen. Currently valued at nearly $3 billion (2.25 billion euros) per day, trade between Europe and the United States could get a boost of over $100 billion a year for each side.
"This is a once-in-a-generation prize, and we are determined to seize it," British Prime Minister David Cameron said, flanked by US President Barack Obama and the leaders of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso (left in photo), and the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy (right).
Considered decades ago but vetoed by France in the 1990s, an EU-US deal has gathered momentum as the two sides both seek independent growth, as well as protection against a rising China. The United States and the European Commission, the executive body of the 27-member EU, hope for a free-trade deal by the end of 2014 - a tight deadline in complex international trade talks that usually take many years. The European Union and the United States already account for about half the world's economic output and nearly a third of world trade, and bringing down the final barriers to trade could unleash billions of dollars in transatlantic business.
"These negotiations will not always be easy, but I am sure they will be worth it," Barroso said. "The current economic climate requires us to join forces and to do more with less."
France rescinds no
France had also threatened to block the start of these talks until Friday, when the other 26 EU governments accepted the country's demand to shield movies and online entertainment from the might of Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
"It is important that we get it right, and that means resisting the temptation to downsize our ambitions or avoid tough issues just for the sake of getting a deal," Obama said on Monday, with a possible nod to the French concession.
The London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research estimates that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership could boost the EU and US economies respectively by 119 billion euros and 95 billion euros a year. However, a report commissioned by Germany's nonprofit Bertelsmann Foundation and published on Monday, found that the United States could benefit more than Europe. A deal could increase GDP per capita in the United States by 13 percent over the long term but by only 5 percent on average for the European Union, the study found.
Any potential lopsidedness was left out of Monday's talks, with the focus squarely on potential financial benefits for both sides.
"We cannot expect to harvest new jobs today," Van Rompuy said. "We can plant the seeds for the jobs of tomorrow."
mkg/dr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)