The United States and European Union on Friday concluded a second round of free-trade talks in Brussels.
The weeklong negotiating session was the first round since a Washington meeting in July, taking place a month late due to the U.S. government shutdown.
EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero told reporters that the round focused on investment rules, services, energy and raw materials trade and aligning the regulatory regimes of the U.S. and EU.
He announced that a special meeting on financial services regulation would be held on Nov. 27 to bring in experts. A third full round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks will happen in December, and after that, negotiators will give political leaders a chance to weigh in.
“We are working intensively on a number of sectors,” Becerro said.
Regulations and barriers were discussed for medical devices, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, pesticides, information technology and automobiles, Becerro said. He added the list is not meant to be an exhaustive one of what the free-trade agreement will entail.
US chief negotiator Dan Mullaney said the group will be looking to make progress on regulations, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and animal health regulations and sectoral approaches moving forward.
He noted that the EU exports far more agricultural products to the U.S. than the U.S. sends the other way. Sanitary regulations have proven a major barrier here.
“We could find ourselves in the position of minimizing or eliminating some of the current issues” in the context of a new regulatory convergence, he said.
He confirmed that the U.S. has been pushing for investor protections in line with previous U.S. free-trade agreements, while maintaining freedom for governments to issue regulations. Some NGOs have protested the U.S. push for recourse to investor-state dispute panels outside the normal court system.
While the EU trade talks are just starting, separate negotiations for a Trans-Pacific trade deal are nearer to completion. The Obama administration is seeking to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership by the end of this year and to get fast-track trade promotion authority from Congress. A majority of House Democrats are resisting that effort, along with a rump group of trade-skeptic Republicans.
He also noted that Congress wants currency manipulation addressed in trade deals, something the Obama administration is considering.