To European leaders relief, the EU-US free trade agreement had a place at Barack Obama’s remarks on Tuesday night. In his State of the Union address, the US President set the stage for negotiations to remove tariff barriers and regulatory hurdles. Although talks have been going on for more three years already (and many of the participants admit to be frustrated), experts point out that this could mean a new push, or even that something is already moving behind the scenes.
“We will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs,” Mr. Obama said.
Washington exports to Europe three times more than to China. Bilateral trade accounts for more than 50 percent of the global GDP. A free trade bilateral agreement would be five times bigger than the one signed between Korea and the US in 2011.
But there are some tricky steps to overcome. The most difficult part is proving to be harmonizing regulations on food, for example. European law is much stricter than the US’, banning imports of chickens washed with chlorine and beef treated with hormones, which are widely common on this side of the Atlantic.
The most touching moment of the evening for many was when Mr. Obama asked Congress to pass weapon control legislation while the cameras showed families who had experienced gun-related tragedies.
But the core of his proposals had to do with the economy, as raising the minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour (a worker making the minimum wage now earns just $14,500 a year) and indexing it to inflation.
AUSTERITY IN ITSELF NOT ENOUGH
The President described his fiscal goal as the same one he has had for months: a $1.5 trillion reduction over 10 years that would stabilize the debt at slightly below current levels. And, he stated, austerity in itself cannot be Washington’s goal.
“Most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda. But let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan,” he said.