Top Senate trade officials warned on Tuesday that any free-trade agreement between the United States and Europe would be held to strict demands that American companies see clear benefits — particularly in areas such as agriculture that have been a source of frequent dispute.
“There is no doubt that a U.S.-[European Union] FTA is an enticing opportunity” that would enhance what is already the world’s largest trading relationship and bring half of world economic output under a more liberal system, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. But the issues that would have to be resolved in any talks “are long-standing and difficult,” the senators said, and would require Europe to open farm, service and other markets that it has been slow to deregulate.
The Obama administration is nearing a decision on whether to open formal negotiations with the European Union over a transatlantic free-trade agreement. Europe has been pushing the idea in the hope of boosting its tepid rate of economic growth. But U.S. officials have been concerned that Europe’s complex politics — of the 27 EU nations, some are avowed free-trade supporters while some veer towards protectionist industrial policy — would make for protracted and perhaps futile negotiations.