But in recent weeks, fresh disagreements have surfaced over issues such as the regulation of financial services and the openness of U.S. state governments to foreign businesses and contractors. Those add to a healthy list of legacy disputes involving agriculture, European prohibitions on genetically modified food and French insistence it be allowed to maintain quotas on non-French media.
None are necessarily deal breakers. But they could make it harder for officials to reach their goal of finishing an agreement by next year and diminish the potential for a treaty to quickly boost jobs and growth. Although the push for such a partnership grew out of concern about high unemployment in the developed world, business groups, public officials and others involved in the negotiations say the short-term effects may be muted.
“There was an initial flurry of excitement that this was finally launched,” said Tim Bennett, director general of the Transatlantic Business Council, a group of chief executives who confer with the U.S. government and European Commission on trade and economic issues. But “let’s not oversell the benefits. The benefits will take several years to manifest . . . . This is not the silver bullet that is going to solve all the employment problems in the E.U. or the U.S.”
“If the negotiation gets started, we know it will be a long one filled with obstacles,” French Trade Minister Nicole Bricq said during a trip to Washington last month in which she detailed possible problems the French foresee in the talks.
Cameron on Monday said the talks could launch formally at a meeting of top world leaders in Northern Ireland next month and that he hoped they would start without preconditions imposed by either side.
“To realize the huge benefits this deal could bring would take ambition and political will. That means everything on the table,” Cameron said. “The next five weeks are crucial.”
It is over that time that the office of the U.S. Trade Representative will finish conferring with Congress about the scope of the negotiations. A similar process is underway in the European Union as the 27 member nations discuss a negotiating “mandate” for European commission officials.
In the course of those discussions, the demands are multiplying.
Some European officials want to use the negotiations to push back on new U.S. financial regulations that could force European banks to restructure their operations if they want to do business in the United States. The effect of the Volcker Rule on European companies has been a sore point for more than a year. Some U.S. officials are hesitant to include matters that are still under debate in the United States and unsettled in U.S. laws and regulations.