US, EU make progress on trade deal, but no deadline yet

U.S. and European Union trade negotiators said Friday that they made progress this week during their fourth round of talks, but acknowledged there is still no deadline to ink a final deal.

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The latest round of talks wrapped up in Brussels as the world’s two largest trading partners continue their efforts to eliminate tariffs, smooth their regulatory environments and expand market access with the aim of creating jobs and growing their economies on both sides of the Atlantic.

“We’re moving at a very good pace,” said Dan Mullaney, chief negotiator for the United States during a press conference. 

“We want to move expeditiously but we want to get the agreement right,” he said. “We haven’t adopted a specific deadline but we're moving as quickly as we can toward an agreement.”

Ignacio Garcia Bercero, the EU's chief negotiator on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, said talks centered around tariffs, services, investment and procurement.

Earlier this week, U.S. trade officials expressed concerns that the EU was backing away from its vow to eliminate all tariffs as part of the massive agreement.

EU officials have said they were disappointed with the initial offer from the United States, but Mullaney said Friday that "for us, the main focus is the end point in the negotiation, not these initial steps."

He said the ultimate goal is to eliminate all duties, which average about 3 percent but run much higher on some products. 

"I’m generally pleased with the progress that U.S. and EU negotiators made this week in the major areas of the negotiations,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said in a statement.

“We know we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we have a good understanding of the key issues that need to be resolved. It is critical that we keep our eye on the goal of an ambitious and comprehensive agreement that makes our economies stronger.”

The negotiators announced that they want to add a chapter aimed at small- and medium-sized businesses, which would be a first for the EU, Garcia Bercero said.

Smaller firms employ the vast majority of people in the United States and the EU.

Negotiators are scheduled to meet again in Washington before the summer.

President Obama with meet with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Barroso on March 26 in Brussels.

The U.S.-EU trade deal would create a $5 trillion trading zone, the world's largest.