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February 14th, 2013
The lead article in today’s New York Times, “Obama Bid for Trade Pact with Europe Stirs Hope,” describes a positive attitude on both sides of the Atlantic to complete an agreement, faced with a need to spur economic growth.
This need has been increased by the growing power of China as a trading competitor and the resulting benefits of cooperative action. A trade talk would mean lower prices for consumers in both the United States and Europe but would go beyond eliminating tariffs and duties of an average three percent. It would also encompass safety regulations and other protective measures for workers manufacturing the goods involved.
Of course, even an agreement just on tariffs would have an enormous impact due to the volume of trade between the United States and the European Union. Each are the others largest trading partners, and the amount of annual trade currently stands at $646 billion.
The talks, however, are extremely intricate and move very slowly. They are set to begin in May or June and take about two years to conclude. President Obama, an eternal optimist, is hoping for 18 months.
This story provides a welcome piece of good news, however, in headlines that have been dominated by the recalcitrance of Congress and the growing scourge of gun violence. One can only hope for a successful outcome.
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