Does Europe want a trade deal?

Rants about U.S. spying get in the way

By The Mercury

When overly righteous European leaders are finished posturing about America’s spying, perhaps they’ll give some thought to the free trade negotiations between Europe and the United States.

And if they’re not all that interested in a deal, they ought to just come out and say so instead of continuing to exploit for domestic consumption recent revelations that the United States knows more about them than they’d like.

If the United States is better at spying than they are, that’s one thing. In that case, they ought to be relieved that we’re on the same side on most important international issues (though they might also be alarmed at our poor security). But it ought to be beneath our European allies to imply that they wouldn’t think of spying on the United States — or on one another, for that matter.

As for the comment by Elmar Brock, a German who chairs the European Parliament’s foreign affairs panel, that “the spying has reached dimensions that I did not think were possible for a democratic country,” several thoughts come to mind: He’s naïve or he’s disingenuous — and a lot of Americans feel the same way he does.

But back to the trade deal. Most European economies — the EU has 27 members and will have 28 soon when Croatia joins — have been treading water long enough to want the economic boost that a free trade agreement could initiate there. The United States also stands to benefit. According to the Financial Times, a deal could add about $130 billion to the U.S. economy and as much as $155 to the European Union’s economy. It could do so in large part by lowering tariffs, cutting red tape and coordinating U.S. and EU regulatory systems in ways that reduce the cost of doing business across the Atlantic Ocean.

Already, the United States and the EU have the world’s strongest trading relationship, accounting for nearly one-third of all international trade. And the trade is reasonably balanced, with the United States running a deficit in goods and a surplus in services. Already, some 15 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic depend on this trade, but the potential for job growth and prosperity for both partners exists and ought to be pursued.

Yes, challenges exist. France, for instance, wants a “cultural exception” to protect European film, music and TV industries. That doubtless would involve tradeoffs on the U.S. side that Europe may or may not be willing to accept.

But neither that issue, nor European complaints about U.S. spying, should block progress toward an agreement that could be of great long-term benefit to all participants.

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