15th April 2019
A meeting of the Council of the European Union, today voted to approve negotiating directives allowing for the commencement of sector specific trade talks between the European Union and the United States. The mandates relate to the two areas; conformity assessment, (making it easier for companies to prove their products meet technical requirements on both sides of the Atlantic) and the elimination of tariffs on industrial goods (excluding agricultural products).
These mandates will enable the EU Commission, in consultation with Member States, to work towards removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to EU-US trade in industrial goods, key goals of the July 2018 Joint Statement of EU Commission President Juncker and US President Trump.
Welcoming the adoption of the mandates by the Council, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, said: “The approval of the negotiating mandates is a key step on the road to a possible future trade agreement between the EU and US. I look forward to the commencement of formal negotiations in the near future and would hope progress continues to be made in the interest of open, free trade and investment on both sides of the Atlantic. I am also pleased that the mandates make clear that Agriculture is not part of our proposed negotiations, something that I sought assurances on from EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in Council last year.”
The EU and the US economies together account for about half the entire world GDP and for nearly a third of world trade flows. The relationship has proved indispensable for the prosperity of EU and US citizens for many years. Minister Humphreys continued: “Given our strong trading and investment relationship, as well as deep cultural ties with the United States, the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers in these two important areas would be a hugely positive development to further stimulate growth, create employment and continue to grow the Irish economy to the benefit of our citizens.
It is important to note that these two political mandates cover two distinct areas agreed for cooperation in the July 2018 Statement. A recent economic analysis released by the EU Commission found that a targeted EU-US agreement eliminating tariffs on industrial goods would increase EU exports to the US by 8% and US exports to the EU by 9% by 2033. In this context Minister Humphreys noted: “Where Ireland and the US has a bilateral trading relationship worth more than €100 billion per annum, the potential gains for Ireland, and resultant employment, from an EU-US trade agreement would be very positive.”
The Minister further added:“The de-escalation in trade tensions between the US and EU achieved by last July’s accord has been of benefit to Irish trade interests and jobs. Equally, a future agreement, coupled with the lifting of current US tariffs on steel and aluminium products, would be a positive development for our economy and for jobs”.
The EU-U.S. Executive Working Group, established in July 2018, and co-chaired by Commissioner Malmström and the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will determine the timing of future trade negotiations.
Notes for The Editor
The European Union and the United States have the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship and enjoy the most integrated economic relationship in the world. The transatlantic relationship also defines the shape of the global economy as a whole. Either the EU or the US is the largest trade and investment partner for almost all other countries in the global economy.
On the 25th July 2018, EU Commission President Juncker and US President Trump met in Washington to launch a new phase in the trade relationship between the US and the EU. They agreed to –
• work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies (on non-auto industrial goods) and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans (the EU will import soybeans from the US),
• strengthen strategic energy cooperation to potentially increase imports of US LNG to diversify the EU’s energy supply,
• launch a close dialogue on standards to ease trade barriers,
• work closely together with like-minded partners to reform the WTO, and
• committing to resolving the steel and aluminium tariff issues and to no further tariff measures unless either party terminates the negotiations.
The EU and the US established an Executive Working Group (EWG) in September 2018 to carry forward the joint agenda agreed on by President Juncker and US President Trump in July 2018.
On the 18th January 2019 the EU Commission published its draft negotiating directives for Council approval to commence trade negotiations with the US: one on conformity assessment, (making it easier for companies to prove their products meet technical requirements on both sides of the Atlantic) and one on the elimination of tariffs for industrial goods (excluding agricultural products). As part of its commitment to transparency, the European Commission published the draft mandates at the same time as submitting them to the EU Member States.
The two mandates are of a limited scope, covering two distinct economic sectors agreed on for co-operation in the July 2018 Joint Statement (available here) namely the removal of tariffs on industrial goods and conformity assessment. They do not constitute a mandate for negotiations on a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, which would involve negotiations across a far wider range of sectors and topics.
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