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Why a US-EU trade pact would be historic

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“If we get this right, an [EU-US] agreement that opens markets and liberalizes trade would shore up our global competitiveness for the next century, creating jobs and generating hundreds of billions of dollars for our economies,” Ms. Clinton said last month.

The European Commission estimates that trade would expand 50 percent with such a pact.

But the larger hope is more global in scope. “We should keep an eye on the bigger picture,” said European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, “that liberal democracies should stick together despite the crisis that to some extent has undermined belief in liberal-democracy.”

Together, the US and EU economies are nearly half of the world’s gross domestic product and command about a third of its trade. A trade pact between the two would help cement a global ideal in trade openness.

Such a pact won’t be easy. While tariffs are low in EU-US trade, the two have very different regulations on products and services, reflecting deep cultural differences on, for example, food safety and privacy. Resolving those differences will require keeping the goal of trade openness firmly in mind.

Obama’s legacy in world affairs would be more certain if he quickly reached an agreement with the EU and got Congress to pass it. It would be the equivalent of setting up an economic NATO, a bulwark against a Chinese model that holds little promise for global progress based on universal values.

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