Vienna, 15 June 2013 – The trade ministers of the EU member states reached agreement on a mandate for negotiating a free trade zone with the USA at their meeting in Luxembourg last night. The 12 hour negotiations also covered controversial issues. "The start signal has now been given for the world’s two largest economic blocks to move more closely together with this acceptance of a negotiating mandate. The negotiations should begin quickly to ensure that both sides of the Atlantic will soon be able to benefit from new impetus for the economy”, Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said.
The USA is Austria’s number one trading partner outside Europe. Austrian exports to the US reached a value of 6.9 billion euros in 2012, representing an 8.6% growth over the previous year. "A free trade zone would be of special benefit to Austrian SMEs and it would entail increased growth and the creation of new jobs", Spindelegger said.
The mandate that has been accepted aims at achieving an ambitious and comprehensive agreement. It is intended to bring about a reduction in customs duties together with the opening of markets for investments, services and public procurement procedures. Increased harmonisation, or mutual recognition of standards and regulations in specific areas will make trans-Atlantic trade significantly easier. "This certainly does not mean that all differences will be done away with entirely. The mandate also contains clear red lines, for example in maintaining the European standards for the food sectors, or when dealing with public services", Spindelegger said.
Spindelegger gave his support to the compromise that was achieved for excluding the audio-visual sector from the negotiations for the time being, but to maintain the option of opening appropriate negotiations with the USA in this area too: "This is a flexible solution that leaves us with the scope we need to take account of the technical developments in production and distribution that are taking place here, in particular with regard to digitalisation and the Internet."
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