EU, US reps meet ahead of free-trade talks 18 февраля 2014, 11:31
Michael Froman, U.S. Trade Representative (L) and European Union Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. ©Reuters/Denis Balibouse
US Trade Ambassador Michael Froman received his European counterpart Karel De Gucht in Washington Monday, preparing for next month's fourth round of talks on creating the world's largest free-trade area, AFP reports.
The two sides have been in discussion since last year over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which aims to expand trade, investment and regulatory cooperation between the two huge economies.
Froman and De Gucht spoke briefly to reporters in Washington before two days of closed-door meetings with the EU trade commissioner, meant to take stock of progress made during three past rounds of negotiations, which wrapped up in December.
A fourth round is slated for the week of March 10 in Brussels.
"When we launched these negotiations we knew they would present great opportunities and also a few challenges," said Froman. "It's fair to say after three rounds, we see both.
"We'll be discussing ways to make sure that our manufacturers and our farmers and ranchers and service providers have opportunities to get expanded access to each other's markets."
He also emphasized the need to maintain "the level of health, safety, and environmental protection that our regulators deem appropriate."
De Gucht said that the two sides have made progress.
"Negotiating among friends is not always easy so we are yes, starting to realize that we are facing a number of challenges; that we have to overcome them together," he said.
Under the free-trade agreement the European Union hopes its exports would jump 28 percent.
Concerns, however, have arisen in various areas, particularly on agriculture issues such as genetically modified organisms, which are strictly regulated in Europe.