Brussels and Washington believe they have found a recipe for a speedy transatlantic trade deal: Think small.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is pushing to “finalize outcomes” with the EU by November, when America will hold critical midterm elections that will determine President Donald Trump’s ability to govern. The EU has agreed to push for this “early harvest.”
It is increasingly clear that severe differences over cars and farming mean a mega deal will have to wait. Instead, any near-term deal will focus on regulatory cooperation on topics such as car blinkers, cosmetics, insurance and driverless vehicles.
Still, even that mini-deal is attractive. Trump wants a success story for the impending elections, while Brussels wants to create goodwill that will stop Washington following through on threats to impose higher tariffs on the European car industry.
Susan Danger, chief executive of the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU, said one school of thought for how to move forward is “to do things piecemeal and address the low-hanging fruit.”
“Once you get some momentum up, people believe that things can be done, and then they’ll do more things,” she said.
The “early harvest” approach should enable EU and U.S. negotiators to avoid the toxic political backlash that killed the far more wide-ranging Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, which collapsed in 2016. To its vocal critics in the EU, TTIP was cast as an American Trojan horse that would undermine Europe’s food and environmental standards.
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