By Brian Beary in Washington | Wednesday 20 June 2012
After years of drifting along through crises and stagnation, the transatlantic economy may finally get a shot in the arm from its political leaders. The US White House welcomed, on 19 June, an interim report from the EU-US High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth, which spells out the various options available to expanding EU-US trade in goods, services and investment. While making no firm commitments, the White House stated that it was “encouraged” by the group’s analysis of “the benefits of an ambitious and comprehensive market opening arrangement”. It urged the group to complete the report “as quickly as possible” and to make a recommendation to the leaders on whether to start talks on some kind of EU-US free trade agreement (FTA). This group was set up at the EU-US summit in Washington DC, in November 2011, and is chaired by US Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. The impression given in recent months has been that of a US administration more reluctant than its EU counterpart to start talks, fearful they will quickly get bogged down on technical details. Thus, the positive noises being made at this juncture by the White House are noteworthy, although the road ahead toward any FTA will clearly be long, winding and uncertain.