The USA Bugging EU – But Trade Talks Go Ahead

EU-US trade talks: they were said to have died a slow and painful death (by surveillance) just a few weeks ago when it was revealed by the National security Agency whistleblower (Edward Snowden)  that the USA was listening in on the EU, and in particular France and Germany. The USA was bugging the EU (probably in more ways than one). It never ceases to amaze how the EU just flouts and sulks like a small child in the face of the USA and the trade talks go ahead today anyway. Although, my guess is that they can do little else in the face of the $100 billion that it will be bringing in for both parties if the talk come off!

Trade Deal

These talks have been on the horizon for nearly two years now in a bid to come to some sort of agreement and get the US and the EU out of the economic rut that they both are finding themselves in. In fact, historically, the suggestion of such a deal dates back to 1995 (when the EU Commissioner, Leon Brittan, made the suggestion that a deal be struck). It was only in light of China’s super growth and the financial crisis that hit harder than expected that the idea resurfaced again.

The US Trade Representative, Mike Froman told Reuters “We go into these negotiations with the goal of achieving the broadest possible, most comprehensive agreement that we can”. France’s President, François Hollande wanted to call things off for a two-week cooling-down period in the aftermath of the revelations by Edward Snowden that the EU had been spied upon by the USA. Apparently, you can’t eavesdrop on friends. Anyhow, Hollande backed down. Maybe he’s not called Mr. Flabby for nothing (in French he’s known as ‘flanby’, which is a jelly-like, wobbly desert that has little taste). But, some might say that of course France was going to back down. They are hardly in a position to be out on a limb and go it alone right now, are they?

Last year alone trade between the US and the EU (in either direction) as a total stood at $646 billion. You can hardly have scruples when it’s that sort of figure that is being branded about, can you?


  • The new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would end up being the world’s biggest trade deal to be discussed.
  • In global terms, it would mean that the USA and the EU would corner 50% of global economic output as well as 30% of the trade being done throughout the world.

Scruples can’t exist when we are talking of those sums. If the deal that starts today is pulled off, then analysts have suggested that it would amount to adding on $100 billion in economic growth for both parties.

The talks are chaired by Dan Mullaney for the US and Ignacio Garcia Bercero for the EU. They will divide the participants into 15 different workshops that will each discuss certain fields and negotiate on those sectors (agriculture, investment, competition policy, amongst many others).

Tough Points

There may be some intense negotiation going on in particular since the US wishes to see the EU back down on their stringent regulations regarding genetically-modified organisms, so that US farmers would be able to sell in the EU.

Trade: GMO laws

Trade: GMO laws

The EU wishes to see the US remove regulations regarding the ‘buy-American’ policies that are implemented in public works programs. The ‘Buy-American’ mandate’s latest amendment was passed in a vote mid-May 2012, with the intention of creating more US jobs and getting round certain loopholes that had existed with the creation of the first ‘Buy American’ provision. The Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) had already included such a provision, requiring that any public-building or public-works program had to use raw materials and find its suppliers from companies within the US or that employed and manufactured on US soil. At the time, the plan caused controversy with Canada that ended up with a tit-for-tat retaliation plan to bar the US from bidding in public-works projects also.

However, it may in actual fact turn out that such a ‘Buy-American’ mandate has done nothing more than stunt growth in the US, causing a great slowdown in projects (due to increased costs to show that the ‘Buy-American’ mandate is being adhered to by companies and public-works projects. Sometimes this meant that buying US manufactured materials resulted in those costs also being increased substantially, despite the fact that they could be purchased much cheaper elsewhere around the world.

Trade: Buy-US Mandate to go?

Trade: Buy-US Mandate to go?

Given that the US ‘Buy-American’ mandate is not considered to be the answer to improving the economic situation in the country (and that the real problem should be tackled from the angle of how to actually curb spending on projects, but maintain the quality), it seems that the US is unlikely to hold out on this point during the negotiations. But, will the EU back down on agriculture and slacken the rules? That’s a whole different ball game. In the light of present revelations about the NSA it would seem that in this game, the EU might be more adamant about moving the goal posts. Maybe the revelations come at the right time and will give the EU some leverage in the discussions.

Results When?

US Trade Representative Froman added that he wouldn’t want the deal to go on indefinitely and it was to happen sooner rather than later: “If we're going to go down this road, we want to get it on one tank of gas”. But, that would mean probably before the end of the present EU Commission (which finishes in 2014). That means they will have their work cut out getting a deal that pleases both sides and doesn’t leave them with much time. It seems more than likely that such talks will go well into 2015 before anything substantial is reached at all, despite what Froman has suggested.

Anyhow, most of what is actually known regarding the TTIP at the present time has only been gleaned from leaked documents that have been given to the press. That’s it! Play them at their own game and anyhow, if you can’t beat them, just join in the fun and games!

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