Free trade with the US but not at any price, say MEPs
MEPs called for talks on a possible trade deal with the US to start early next year, in a resolution adopted on Tuesday. They point to the huge potential for growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic but caution that the EU's interests must be protected, especially in the farm sector.
"We want to send a strong political signal in favour of opening negotiations with the United States in order to create a real transatlantic market with enormous opportunities for growth. Agreement is not going to be easy and there are very divergent interests between the US and Europe over, for example, agriculture, maritime transport, GMOs and cloned animals, but we believe that these difficulties can be overcome", said the rapporteur, Vital Moreira (S&D, PT), before the vote.
Value of EU-US trade
MEPs call in the non-binding resolution for negotiations to begin in the first half of 2013, pointing out that that the EU and US have the "largest economic relationship in the world" with a trade volume of €700 billion and bilateral investment valued at almost €2.4 trillion in 2011. Gross domestic product (GDP) in the EU and US could be boosted by €163 billion by 2018 if half the non-tariff barriers were removed, they stress.
Develop closer ties but protect EU interests
Parliament wants a "more integrated transatlantic marketplace" but highlights the special needs of the EU farm sector, which exports high-quality produce to the US, and the need to agree on geographical indications. Other crucial EU concerns are GMOs, animal welfare, environmental and health standards, food safety, cultural diversity, labour and consumer rights and the restrictions on foreign ownership of US airlines.
The resolution is Parliament's input into the work of the High Level EU-US Working Group (HLWG) exploring the options for boosting jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic. The Commission hopes negotiations can start early in 2013. If a deal is negotiated it will need Parliament's consent to become law.
The resolution was adopted by 526 votes to 94, with 7 abstentions.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution