Nearly all business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several national agriculture groups, praised the President’s affirmation during his State of the Union address this week of the Administration’s priority on achieving a U.S.-EU free trade agreement – already dubbed “Eurafta” by trade wonks – saying, “Trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”
He also said he wants to complete by the end of the year negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade treaty between Pacific Rim nations and major global trading partners, including the U.S. and Canada. While the U.S. has been laying the groundwork for a U.S.-EU trade deal for a couple of years through a high-level working group of U.S. and European trade experts, it’s acknowledged U.S. and EU priorities, along with significant cultural differences, will make a sweeping agreement difficult at best. Trade with the EU has lagged in recent years, with the U.S. reporting a $125.9 billion trade deficit with Europe in 2012. This week Sens. Max Baucus (D, MT) and Orrin Hatch (R, UT), chair and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, sent a letter to Special Trade Representative Ron Kirk identifying several areas of concern between the trading blocs, including ag exports – GM foods, use of animal health products in livestock and poultry production, etc. – and intellectual property concerns.