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Main focus of Thursday, February 14, 2013

US and EU want free trade zone

The Transatlantic Free Trade Area would comprise more than half of world trade. (© dapd)

The US and the EU announced on Wednesday that they would begin negotiations on a free trade agreement. The talks are to get under way this summer. Commentators are thrilled by the prospect of a strong counterbalance to China's influence but fear that it will prove difficult to harmonise the rules in the two economic areas.

Público - Portugal

Battle cry against protectionism

Europe and the US aim to give the flagging economies on both sides of the Atlantic a powerful boost with the creation of the world's largest free trade zone. By doing so the transatlantic region would demonstrate new strength and initiative, the liberal daily Público comments gleefully: "In a world increasingly dominated by protectionism, the Europeans and Americans would send the message with this gesture that the West has not been reduced to passiveness and decline. However this pact won't put a brake on the self-assertive trend of the up-and-coming powers. And yet if this agreement does come to fruition, that is, if Brussels and Washington manage to counter the protectionist forces in their own camps, said pact will be seen as a paradigm for other economic blocs in the world. ... And what's more it would show that they are capable of finding common answers. And this at a time when the worst phase of the crisis affecting both sides seems to be over. The whole world would benefit from this alliance." (14/02/2013)

Expansión - Spain

New transatlantic counterweight to China

A free trade zone between the EU and the US would finally put the focus of international policy back on transatlantic relations, the conservative business paper Expansión writes enthusiastically: "This is excellent news, both from an economic and a geopolitical point of view. For the economy, an agreement will help create a situation every liberal democracy strives for (or should be striving for): more international trade that boost the citizens' prosperity through reductions in prices and creates additional jobs. ... From a geopolitical point of view it will give transatlantic relations, which have suffered greatly as a result of the financial crisis and the simultaneous rise of the emerging economies, an enormous boost. After all, it's no news that in recent years the US has concentrated mainly on strengthening its relations with Asia (and above all an unstoppable China) and has paid little attention to Europe." (14/02/2013)

Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

EU and US must make compromises

Whether a free trade zone between the US and the EU would be a success depends on both sides' ability to make compromises, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung points out: "The problem is not the remaining customs and duties amounting to three percent of the trade volume but the 'trade barriers behind the borders'. ... We're talking about industrial standards, security and health regulations, environmental norms and the relationship between the state and businesses. ... Must we accept genetically modified corn in our fields and the lax data protection of the US? Or from the American perspective: must we put up with the Europeans' obsession with regulations? It's not just the usual reservations about free trade that come up here, but also years of cultivated resentment. The one side denounces 'socialist' Europe while the other repudiates the 'inhuman capitalism' of the US. If the free trade zone is to be a success, both sides must be able to make compromises." (14/02/2013)

Finanz und Wirtschaft - Switzerland

Switzerland messed up agreement with US

Switzerland refused to enter a free trade agreement with the US in 2005 out of consideration for its agricultural lobby. A bad mistake, the business weekly Finanz und Wirtschaft admonishes: "The window of opportunity for an agreement with the Americans that would also have given Switzerland more room for manoeuvre vis-à-vis the defiant EU was messed up in the most grossly negligent way. It can't be said often enough, this is a wound that cries out for salt. And now? Caught in the stranglehold of domestic blackmail, nothing can save Swiss diplomacy but kowtowing and seeking a place in the sidecar of the EU. And those who rhapsodise the loudest about Swiss sovereignty often do everything imaginable to constrict it. It's no good to expect clear words from the Federal Council. ... It doesn't even dare peek at the gauntlet thrown down by the agriculture lobby. Well, bravo!" (14/02/2013)

» To the complete press review of Thursday, February 14, 2013

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