EU, U.S. Removing Trans-Atlantic Trade Red Tape

Two-way trade between the U.S. and the EU reached $1.6 billion a day last year, but businesses on both sides complain about red tape holding them back.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- EU and American officials meet in Brussels on Tuesday to debate how to cut bureaucracy and boost an economic relationship that -- despite the hype about emerging giants such as China -- remains by far the world's most significant.

Two-way trade between the U.S. and the EU reached US$1.6 billion (euro1 billion) a day last year, but businesses on both sides complain about red tape holding them back.

For instance, Europeans have not been eating American chicken for 11 years due to an EU import ban that costs U.S. poultry producers US$180 million (euro117 million) a year in lost sales. From the other direction, U.S. red tape delays the shipping of low-voltage products such as laptops and shavers, costing producers $120 million (euro77.7 million) a year.

And both EU and U.S. companies pay tens of millions of dollars (euros) just to comply with duplicate rules on accounting or measures to protect shipments from terrorists.

U.S. investments in Ireland alone (US$83 billion; euro54 billion) exceed those in China, Russia, Brazil and India (US$73 billion; euro47 billion). EU investments in the U.S. soared to US$1.3 trillion (euro840 billion) in 2006, triple their mid-1990s level. Today, Germany alone invests more in the U.S. Southeastern states than the 27-nation EU does in China.

Europe, the world's biggest consumer market with close to 500 million people, is also by far the most profitable region for American multinationals. In 2006, the income of U.S. affiliates in Europe was nearly three times as large as total earnings from Latin America and more than double those in Asia.

An enduring irritant facing Daniel Price, U.S. President George W. Bush's economic adviser, and EU Industry Commissioner Guenther Verheugen in Tuesday's talks will be the EU ban on U.S. chicken imports.

Imposed in 1997, it reflects European concerns that the American practice of washing chickens in a chlorine solution threatens public health and the environment. EU food safety experts have since toned down that view, triggering expectations the chicken ban may soon go.

Unlocking more trans-Atlantic trade, investments and demand, says Adrian van den Hoven, head of international relations at BusinessEurope, the EU business lobby, is possible with ''better regulation through only minor adjustments.''

This would be most welcome in the EU, whose exports to the U.S. have taken a beating as the dollar fell in value. Euro-zone exports to the United States fell 3 percent in 2007 as the weak dollar made German cars and French champagne more expensive there.

Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, an alliance of EU and U.S. businesses -- armed with a study by Johns Hopkins University's Center for Trans-Atlantic Relations -- said ending regulatory hurdles will generate euro6.5 billion (US$10 billion) in annual cost savings and market growth.

The study said the ''trans-Atlantic economy generates US$4 trillion (euro2.6 trillion) in total commercial sales.'' It valued U.S. exports to Europe last year at US$250 billion (euro160 billion) and imports at US$350 billion (euro225 billion).

Removing restrictions on airline ownership in the United States, alone, could boost ''trans-Atlantic air travel by 24 percent,'' says the report.

It estimates integrating EU and U.S. securities markets will boost trading by 50 percent and ''aligning'' the car industries -- among other things through uniform crash testing -- will cut the cost of passenger vehicles and trucks by 7 percent.

An issue of rising concern for Washington is EU legislation that, as of 2009, will require the registration of chemicals to see how safe they are. U.S. manufacturers call this exceedingly burdensome and especially fear an EU law banning cosmetics containing ingredients that have been tested on animals.

EU and American businesses want the EU and the U.S. to adopt a common stance on chemical safety and animal testing issues.

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