Obama joins EU leaders to launch trade talks

President Obama joined European Union leaders Wednesday to officially launch talks aimed at creating the $5 trillion trans-Atlantic free trade zone he announced during his State of the Union address.

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“We, the leaders of the United States and the European Union, are pleased to announce that … the United States and the European Union will each initiate the internal procedures necessary to launch negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” Obama said in a joint statement with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. 

“A high-standard Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would advance trade and investment liberalization and address regulatory and other non-tariff barriers. Through this negotiation, the United States and the European Union will have the opportunity not only to expand trade and investment across the Atlantic, but also to contribute to the development of global rules that can strengthen the multilateral trading system.”

The announcement is based on recent recommendations from U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. According to Kirk's office, the pact would

  • "Further open markets to grow the $459 billion in U.S. goods and services exports to the E.U., America's largest export market, which already supports an estimated 2.4 million well-paying American jobs;
  • "Strengthen rules-based investment to grow the world’s largest investment relationship.  The United States and the E.U. already maintain a total of nearly $4 trillion in investment in each other’s economies, supporting nearly seven million jobs;
  • "Tackle costly 'behind the border' non-tariff barriers that impede the flow of goods and services trade;
  • "Seek to significantly cut the cost of differences in regulation and standards by promoting greater compatibility, transparency and cooperation; and
  • "Enhance cooperation on the development of rules and principles on issues of global concern, including on market-based disciplines for State-Owned Enterprises, combating discriminatory localization barriers to trade, and promoting the global competitiveness of small- and medium-sized enterprises."