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Negotiation of the EU-US Free Trade Agreement Slated to Begin in Late June
Melissa Miller Proctor, Esq., Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg, P.A.
The United States and the European Union are in the very early stages of pursuing a free trade agreement with one another - the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (commonly referred to as the "TTIP"). Formal negotiations are anticipated to begin in late June 2013 - almost twenty years after the idea of such an agreement was first proposed by the two regions. The various areas expected to be addressed during the TTIP negotiations include elimination of tariffs, fees and taxes on goods; removal of non-tariff barriers to trade; harmonization of customs regulations; improved market access for government procurement and services; greater intellectual property rights protection; expanded foreign investment opportunities; and, more uniform approaches for issues considered to be of global importance (e.g., sustainability, state-owned enterprises, etc.).
The average U.S. tariff on E.U. goods is relatively low - approximately 2.5 percent; however, it is the various non-tariff barriers to trade that can significantly impact companies' competitive positions. Thus, the greatest benefits that may be offered by the TTIP may be found in increasing market access to both regions by harmonizing and increasing transparency in customs operations.
U.S. companies have less than a day to submit public comments to the Office of United States Trade Representative ("USTR") regarding any industry-specific trade issues and product interests that should be taken into account or pursued during the negotiation process. The USTR is requesting that interested parties trading in the E.U. market submit their comments (as well as any requests to present testimony at USTR hearings scheduled for late May) no later than May 10, 2013. For example, the USTR is eager to obtain information from U.S. importers, exporters, manufacturers, and retailers on specific, trade-related issues including:
- Anticipated costs and benefits to U.S. producers and consumers resulting from the reduction/removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers on articles traded with the E.U.
- Product-specific import/export interests or barriers
- Priorities and sensitivities of certain industry sectors
- Recommendations for staging the reduction/removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers
- Appropriate rules of origin for goods entering the U.S. under the agreement
- Assessment of existing sanitary and phytosanitary measures imposed by both regions
- Opportunities to increase transparency and harmonization of the customs operations of the U.S. and individual member states
- E-Commerce and cross-border data transfer issues
- Anti-corruption issues
- Trade-related intellectual property rights issues
- Relevant foreign investment, competition, government procurement, labor and environmental issues
It is not too late for companies to become engaged in the process. Assessing how a possible agreement could impact trade operations and bottom lines as well as actively participating in the FTA process are the best ways for companies to impact the resulting FTA and protect their vital interests.
Melissa Miller Proctor is a Member of Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg, P.A. and the firm's Export Practice Leader, resident in the Scottsdale, Arizona office. With significant experience in export controls, customs laws and regulations, and international trade, Melissa works closely with clients to expand their markets while ensuring their regulatory compliance. She may be reached at (480) 305-2110 or via e-mail at email@example.com.