The European Union will stand its ground on
issues of data privacy, its chief negotiator said Friday as the
United States and EU ended the first week of talks on a potentially
monumental free-trade agreement.
"We do not intend to compromise," Ignacio Garcia Bercero said in answer to a reporter's question at a press briefing.
He said talks on the issue would not put "into question data privacy standards of the EU."
The comment was the only public hint of discord from Bercero and US lead negotiator Dan Mullaney, who said the week had seen a successful gathering in Washington of negotiating groups on more than 15 issues.
The Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks have been more than a year in the planning. The aim is to create the world's largest free-trade zone by knocking down the average 4-per-cent tariffs and, more importantly, clearing away regulatory discrepancies that now inhibit trade.
To allay European concerns about espionage, the sides have agreed to hold parallel talks on the spying allegations arising from documents leaked by fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
In the days before talks opened on Monday, some European officials urged suspension of the trade talks. But the pressing need for economic growth in recession-plagued Europe and the interest by the US in gaining easier access to the EU market won out.
"Spying or no spying, we need more trade," Danish Minister for Economic and Interior Affairs Margrethe Vestager said this week.
She said the prospect of growth and more trade was "of course very important for all of us in Europe."
Mullaney said that each of the negotiating groups met to identify "what they needed to do to make progress between now and the second round" slated for in October in Brussels.
Mullaney and Bercero said that considerable time had been devoted to agriculture, expected to be the thorniest issue in the talks.
"Certainly this is a conversation we will be ready to continue," Bercero said.
The US-EU economic relationship is already the world's largest, representing 30 per cent of global trade.
If a deal is reached on both tariff and non-tariff regulatory issues, that fraction could grow to nearly half of global economic output, serving a combined population of 800 million.
Among the most contentious agriculture issues are the use and labelling of genetically modified products, as well as EU bans on growth hormones in cattle and so-called chlorinated chicken.
The trade deal offers the prospect of up to 2 million new jobs, according to Germany's Bertelsmann Foundation. Gross domestic product could be boosted by 0.9 per cent in the EU and 0.8 per cent in the US, according to the Centre for Economic Policy Research.
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