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U.S., EU propose eliminating tariffs on almost all goods they trade

At the conclusion of the Miami round of negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the chief U.S. negotiator saluted Miami as a “major gateway for U.S. trade.” File photo shows a Maersk cargo ship arriving in PortMiami.
At the conclusion of the Miami round of negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the chief U.S. negotiator saluted Miami as a “major gateway for U.S. trade.” File photo shows a Maersk cargo ship arriving in PortMiami. For El Nuevo Herald

As they concluded the 11th round of talks aimed at forging a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States and the European Union, negotiators said Friday they had exchanged proposals that would eliminate tariffs on 97 percent of imported goods.

U.S. Chief Negotiator Dan Mullaney said he was “very encouraged” by the latest round of T-TIP negotiations, which were held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami. The trade talks have been going on in various cities since July 2013, and Mullaney said it was important that the negotiations wrap up before President Barack Obama leaves office.

“The next four months are going to be important to our hopes of completing T-TIP during the Obama administration,” he said.

Ignacio García Bercero, chief EU negotiator, said he thought the two sides were “one step” closer after a week of talks in Miami. “This has been a round of very hard work,” he said.

T-TIP is potentially the largest bilateral trade agreement in history, and the EU said that the two sides made “substantial progress on market access for EU and U.S. companies.”

García Bercero declined to say which products were the sticking points and fell within the 3 percent of goods that still aren’t included in both sides’ offers. “Those can only be discussed at a later stage when we are entering the end game,” he said.

Although tariffs on cross-Atlantic trade between the United States and EU nations are already relatively low — below 3 percent for the nearly $700 billion of products traded by the two sides — Mullaney said the United States had increased its offer of goods that could enter duty-free and will continue to work for complete tariff elimination.

The two sides also discussed regulatory cooperation and the EU presented its proposal for sustainable development, including labor and environmental proposals. García Bercero said cooperation on regulatory compliance would only be possible “if the protection for citizens remains the same.”

During a conference call, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Mullaney also gave a shout-out to Miami, saying it was fitting that the scene of the latest T-TIP negotiations was in the city, “one of the major gateways for U.S. trade in the world. One-fifth of America’s exporting companies, some 61,000 firms, are located in Florida. The vast majority of them — 95 percent — are small and medium-sized businesses.”

The 28 countries of the European Union together are already the United States’ largest trading partner. The free trade pact not only is intended to eliminate tariffs but also dismantle non-tariff barriers to trade and streamline the regulatory process between the two trading blocs.

The two sides plan to continue talks in the coming weeks and have another negotiating round in February.

The European Commission, which has been making EU positions public, said it planned to publish an extensive report on the 11th round in early November.

A group of more than 75 labor union, congressional and academic advocates for increased transparency in the proceedings sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman on Thursday, saying, “If the EU is willing to publish its textual proposals, there is no reason why the U.S. cannot immediately release its own textual proposals as well.”

“The U.S. must show its commitment to creating better trade deals and better lives by immediately releasing their T-TIP proposals,” said Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. “Trade agreements negotiated in secret have had a devastating impact upon our families, our jobs, and this nation.”

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