Foreign Trade Minister backs EU-US partnership

Transatlantic partnership – Article by Mme Nicole Bricq, Minister of Foreign Trade, published in the Huffington Post

Paris, 10 February 2014

Translatlantic partnership: the difficult part is finally beginning

International trade will be a central issue in 2014. Global growth is picking up again and our companies must make the most of this positive dynamic. The plan for a transatlantic partnership between the European Union and the United States must contribute to this. It concerns nearly 50% of global GDP and two-thirds of R&D expenditure. After three sessions of preliminary discussions, the difficult part is beginning. We shall now have to move forward, make concrete proposals and find solutions. On Monday, François Hollande is meeting Barack Obama in Washington; on 17 February, European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht will hold talks with American Trade Representative Michael Froman. Politics is taking up the reins and will not let go of them, especially as long as parliaments and the public speak out and rightly want to be involved. That is the case in the United States. It is the case in Europe, particularly in our country.

I therefore want to reiterate our commitment. France believes in this plan. The United States is our main trading partner and we are the leading country for welcoming American investment in Europe. In terms of innovation and creativity, Franco-American meetings are fruitful: our entrepreneurs and creators are recognized and eagerly-awaited in the United States, as the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the Grammy Awards ceremony showed. In order for our companies to be in the vanguard of globalization, they must be in the United States and map out the technological frontier with American partners.

But the transatlantic partnership treaty will come to fruition only if we are in a position to meet three demands.

The first is of course a demand for results and effectiveness on the part of our companies. This is the purpose of the work on standards, which lies at the heart of the discussion. Speeding up procedures and approval times, and mutual recognition: the field is huge, but concrete results are necessary in sectors of shared interest on both sides of the Atlantic. I am thinking, for example, of cosmetics, medical devices and textiles. Procurement contracts must also be opened up.

The second demand is about partnership. For the world’s leading powers in innovation and research, emulation and competition have their role to play. But mutual development will also be built on cooperation and common projects between companies on both sides of the Atlantic. This is the aim of the first Maison de la France à l’international, to be inaugurated in San Francisco on Wednesday by the French President, which will enable at least 60 French companies a year to be supported in the US market – a market which has become essential, particularly in the digital and biotech sectors.

The third demand is democratic. The draft treaty must not equate to a Europe built without the people. The Commission has too much to lose. For Europe and the United States, trade promotes values and development models. Because it is political, the partnership must enable a transatlantic dialogue that goes beyond business communities alone and involves unions, consumer groups and environmental NGOs.

The Commission has realized this. A few days ago it announced the launch of a major public consultation on the – questionable – investment dispute settlement mechanism. As I have done, it has also called on independent, diversified expertise to support its deliberations.

We must not be afraid of debate. We must encourage it. We shall succeed in this political project only if we can ensure its challenges are understood and shared, assert our values through it and get others to adhere to it. I am applying myself to this with confidence, vigilance and determination./.

Published on 14/02/2014

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