WASHINGTON — U.S. and European Union negotiators said Friday they have exchanged new proposals on tariff elimination during the latest round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement talks that would immediately eliminate duties on 97 percent of all trade in goods across the Atlantic.
Negotiators wrapped up the 11th round of T-TIP talks in Miami on Friday.
Retailers and brands are interested in seeing the two sides eliminate tariffs on imports; streamline regulations; remove burdensome technical barriers, and eliminate redundancies in areas such as Customs procedures, product safety testing and certification, and labeling requirements.
“The U.S. and European Union tariff levels are already low by global standards, but each side retains tariffs, some in the double digits, that discourage trade or make consumer products or manufacturing imports more expensive than they need to be,” said Dan Mullaney, assistant U.S. Trade Representative and chief negotiator for the U.S. “Eliminating tariffs would be, of course, especially beneficial for small- and medium-size businesses.”
Ignacio Garcia Bercero, the EU’s chief negotiator, said, “[This is] the first opportunity to compare the offers and discuss them and I think there is a general recognition that they fulfill the criteria that we have set out for ourselves before we proceeded to the exchange.”
Mullaney said the two sides identified a “large number of products” for full tariff elimination in what is a “second” set of offers by both sides. But he and Garcia Bercero declined to comment on what might be included in the 3 percent of goods trade not eligible for immediate duty elimination.
Garcia Bercero said those goods, typically deemed “sensitive” in most trade negotiations, will not be decided on until the “end game.”
In some U.S. free trade agreements, there has been a sensitive apparel basket category that has been subject to longer tariff phaseouts, which the textile industry generally supports. The average U.S. tariff on apparel and textile imports is 15 percent, with a high of 32 percent on some imported products, according to a spokesman with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office.
A report compiled by the World Trade Organization secretariat showed that aside from agriculture, the average EU tariff for 341 apparel products in 2014 was 11.6 percent compared with an overall average of 4.3 percent on industrial goods. Similarly, average EU tariffs for 850 textile products were 6.6 percent.
Another area where negotiators said they made progress during the latest T-TIP round was in narrowing differences in U.S. and EU regulatory regimes.
Three U.S. and European fashion groups released a position paper this week that was shared with negotiators in Miami seeking to streamline, simplify or eliminate duplicative and burdensome labeling and product safety requirements.
While the two chief negotiators did not discuss textiles and apparel regulations specifically, they more broadly said a key goal of T-TIP is to find convergences in the area of regulations.
“We are looking for opportunities in each of those sectors [including textiles] to make it less burdensome to comply with regulations, create efficiency for regulators and to create some benefits for consumers,” Mullaney said.
The negotiators said they have agreed to accelerate meetings on T-TIP in an effort to meet the goal of completing the negotiations next year.