U.S. trade chief says to be “pragmatic” on EU deal

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The chief U.S. trade envoy said he was open to taking a “pragmatic” approach in EU trade negotiations if a broad, over-arching deal did not seem possible.

The United States and the European Union are examining options to strengthen already close trade ties, and are expected to publish preliminary recommendations in the next month.
“We have a unique opportunity right now because … there is huge business support for us doing something big and comprehensive,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters in London after giving a lecture at the London School of Economics, Reuters reports.
“I happen to believe that if we can get a comprehensive agreement, there will be strong political support for it within the U.S.,” he added.

However, past attempts to remove the remaining trade barriers between the United States and EU have foundered on mutual accusations of protectionism in the field of agriculture, aerospace and unscientific health and safety regulation.

While Kirk’s deputy, Miriam Sapiro, had told Reuters last month that agriculture would have to be part of any free-trade pact with the EU, Kirk stressed that there was also scope for a more limited deal.
“Let’s also not allow, as we say, the perfect to become the enemy of the good,” he said.
“We are hopeful this could be a unique opportunity to address some of these historic issues that in the past have seemed to stand in the way … (but) if we can’t do that, then we think it’s imperative that we take a pragmatic approach to seeing what we can accomplish.”

Kirk declined to be drawn on whether the possibility of Greece’s exit from the euro zone, which has been roiling European financial markets, might also lead to a resurgence of protectionism, and possibly even capital controls.

Asked about that, he referred back to comments made by U.S. President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner around last weekend’s G8 meeting.
“We’ve been working with our counterparts in Europe and we know they are cognisant of all the ramifications in this and believe they are going to act,” he said. “If that’s the case we think that will be a huge relief to all the world’s economies.”