Progress reported in talks on proposed free trade agreement between EU, US

BRUSSELS – U.S. and European Union negotiators on Friday reported good headway in their talks for a proposed free trade deal, and disputed charges that ordinary citizens could be the losers.

As the second round of negotiations on the ambitious agenda to grow what is already the world’s biggest two-way trade and investment relationship ended here, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht announced “good and steady progress.”

The proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, could lead to a U.S.-EU agreement to allow many goods and services approved for use on one side of the Atlantic to be automatically cleared for sale on the other.

The elimination of often conflicting regulations is supposed to lead to reduced costs for producers and customers alike. But consumer groups and non-governmental organizations in the United States and Europe have expressed fears that the dismantling of long-established regulatory frameworks could free up businesses to sell more untested or unsafe products and services.

Both U.S. and Europeans officials said Friday that won’t happen.

“The negotiations are not about compromising our standards,” EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero told a joint news conference.

Chief U.S. negotiator Dan Mullaney said TTIP is meant to be a model of how two developed economies can co-operate to increase trade and investment in a way that doesn’t “undermine protections for consumers, the environment and human health and safety.”

Among the issues discussed in the second round were ways to harmonize U.S. and European regulations on medical devices, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, pesticides and automobiles. Energy, raw materials and services were also discussed.

Mullaney said the United States and European Union already recognize each other’s regulations in some areas, such as wine and airline safety.

Negotiations will resume in Washington D.C. the week of Dec. 16. A separate meeting on financial services will be held in Brussels on Nov. 27.