The U.S. and EU Are Getting Ready to Create the Biggest Free-Trade Zone Ever

Just over a week ago, I wrote about ongoing negotiations between the United States and Asian countries regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This was billed as a massive deal with wide-reaching implications, and was even called “the biggest trade deal since the creation of the WTO.”

Now less than two weeks later, there is a new contender for the biggest trade agreement of all time. The United States and the European Union are about to start official negotiations for the creation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This agreement would join together the United States and the European Union’s 27 member countries in a trade agreement whose magnitude has almost certainly not been seen before.

Estimated impacts of the agreement could result in billions of dollars being injected into the U.S. and EU economies, as well as hundreds of thousands to perhaps millions of jobs. Cheaper and more efficient European cars can come to the United States thanks to uniform standards for products between the two economies, and drugs could become cheaper thanks to changes in market entry for new products from the U.S. and the EU. These and other benefits would be the result of traditional tariffs and barriers to entry being taking down by the new agreement, allow for U.S.-made products to be cheaper in the EU, and vice versa.

The Obama administration and many EU leaders seem quite excited about the potential for the deal to get completed, but it has a long and bumpy road ahead with plenty of places along the way that could see the whole thing derailed.

Already the EU contingent is running into problems coming up with a consistent approach to handling the carve-outs and caveats that often play into free-trade agreements. The EU delegation has already had exhaustive talks with France over their concerns for their own domestic movie and television production industry. The French are insistent on audio-visual “culture” products being exempt from the agreement. Ultimately it was decided that this would be brought up at a later time for further discussion.

This will only be the beginning, as further exemption requests could come up from either side as negotiations continue. Other issues that could arise include privacy concerns and agriculture considerations. American industries with subsidies (like agriculture) could prove to be a point of contention, as well as the financial industry in the United States, which has been considered a possible target for exemption.

This agreement will also be watched with unease by China and other countries that are outside the auspices of the U.S. and EU. Beijing must be concerned as the large European and American economies are suddenly open for business with each other. The lower prices of goods traded between those economies could lead to China’s market advantage being harmed, perhaps significantly.

Other countries in places like Latin America and Asia (including Australia) could see their trade with Europe and America decline. These other countries could be put into a position where they need to align with each other in their own trade agreements to make up for losses that may come about from the U.S.-EU agreement, which some have called “trade-NATO.”

While the potential U.S.-EU trade agreement has a very long way to go, with plenty of opportunities for the whole process to derail, the potential impact of this massive free trade agreement is certainly impressive and warrants close attention for everyone from individuals to countries.