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U.S. Looks for Most Effective Way to Expand Trans-Atlantic Trade
May 29, 2012

By Phillip Kurata
IIP Staff Writer
May 24, 2012

Closeup of a man's face
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk
The top U.S. trade official says the United States is committed to finding the smart, prudent and most effective way to strengthen trans-Atlantic trade and investment.

Speaking in London May 22, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said now might not be the best time to launch comprehensive trade talks between the United States and the European Union.

“With so many jobs at stake right now, neither the U.S. nor the EU can afford to leap into open-ended negotiations on faith alone,” he said. The urgent need to stimulate growth and employment on both sides of the Atlantic demands “a reasonably short path to success.”

The U.S. goal for comprehensive trade talks, if they are undertaken, would be full liberalization of market access for all categories of goods and expanded flows of services and investment, Kirk said. Such an agreement would need to be “at least as broad and expansive” as other U.S. trade treaties, he added.

The trade representative said the United States is aware of “acute domestic sensitivities” that oppose broad market-opening measures. If full-fledged trade negotiations were deemed not advisable at this time, then the United States would be ready to pursue more narrowly focused arrangements where the United States and Europe have “shared ambitions,” he said.

Kirk said the United States and the European Union, whose economies account for nearly 50 percent of the global gross domestic product, also need to exercise “shared leadership” in making the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) more than a document of “paper rights.” Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and the United States signed ACTA in 2011.

“We must also do a better job of emphasizing how ACTA reflects our deep concern for the health, safety and welfare of consumers, not only in the European Union and the United States but around the whole world, that are compromised by counterfeit goods,” Kirk said.

He pointed out that ACTA is the only international agreement that explicitly states that intellectual property rules on the Internet must be implemented in a way that guarantees freedom of expression, fair process and privacy.

Kirk said the United States and Europe have a history of working together to enhance transparency and nondiscriminatory access to global markets. The two collaborated at the Doha Round of global trade talks several years ago to push for tougher subsidy rules for state-owned banks and state-owned industrial enterprises and at the World Trade Organization earlier this year to oppose distortions in global markets for industrial raw materials and key rare earth minerals, he said.

The United States and the European Union, Kirk said, have common interests in helping small businesses increase international trade, and they have made progress in that area by agreeing to some common principles for investment, information and communication technology services.

As for the Middle East and North Africa, he said the United States and the European Union have “a shared sense of responsibility and opportunity” to help the countries there develop and stabilize their economies.

Regarding the World Trade Organization (WTO), Kirk said the Doha Round of negotiations are at an impasse and it is time to “start charting a new course” of identifying concrete opportunities to advance trade liberalization while reinforcing the WTO as a bulwark “to guard against protectionist impulses.”