* EU-U.S. summit aims to give momentum to world's biggest
* EU ready to lift most duties, wants U.S. to match its
By Barbara Lewis and Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS, March 13 U.S. President Barack Obama
and European Union leaders will promise to remove all tariffs on
bilateral trade at a summit on March 26, an ambitious step
towards the world's largest free-trade deal, according to a
draft statement seen by Reuters.
The joint declaration, if delivered as laid out in the
draft, seeks to overcome tensions following Washington's offer
to cut its duties by less than the Europeans had hoped for and
after Brussels pledged to remove almost all of its own tariffs.
"The EU and the United States are firmly committed to
concluding a comprehensive and ambitious Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership," the draft statement reads, referring to
U.S.-EU free-trade talks by their official name.
"Those goals include eliminating all duties on bilateral
goods trade," says the statement, which will be delivered at the
end of the day-long summit in Brussels.
The statement is subject to further negotiations with the
The summit will seek to give fresh momentum to tough talks
on a transatlantic trade deal encompassing half the world's
economic output in the hope that an accord can bring gains of
around $100 billion a year for both sides.
It will also try to reach common ground on Ukraine, climate
change and to assuage EU concerns about U.S. spying.
Trade negotiators have said they aim to finalise a deal by
the end of this year, but they must also convince consumers that
a deal is beneficial at a time of rising concern about its
impact on issues such as the environment and food safety.
Tariffs between the United States and the European Union are
already low, and the greatest economic benefits of an accord
would come from dropping barriers to business.
But in a marketplace of 815 million people, moves to lower
the cost of trade are beneficial for companies, particularly
automakers such as Ford, General Motors and
Volkswagen, with U.S. and European plants.
EU cars imported into the United States are charged a 2
percent duty, while the EU sets a 10 percent duty on U.S. cars.
Including even higher duties for trucks and commercial vans, the
burden for automakers amounts to about $1 billion a year.
The United States is seeking a similar trade pact with 11
other nations around the Pacific and Southeast Asia but still
faces big differences on import tariffs, particularly with major
trading partner Japan.
OPEN, FREE, SECURE INTERNET
Obama and EU leaders will also promise to guarantee a secure
Internet governed by many parties, not just the United States,
according to the draft summit statement.
Countries from Germany to Brazil are seeking to shield their
Internet traffic from U.S. surveillance following revelations
that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on U.S. allies
including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"We share a commitment to a single, open, free and secure
internet, based on an inclusive, effective, and transparent
multi-stakeholder model of governance," the draft statement
said. "We recognise the global dimension of the Internet and
that it has become key infrastructure."
U.S. officials in Brussels could not immediately be reached
EU and U.S. negotiators are holding a fourth round of talks
on the trade pact this week in Brussels, a month after the
European Union and the United States revealed the extent to
which they are willing to open up to each other's goods.
Officials familiar with the EU's proposal have told Reuters
the European Union offered to lift 96 percent of existing import
tariffs, retaining protection for just a few sensitive products
such as beef, poultry and pork.
However, the U.S. offer was not as high, according to EU
trade chief Karel De Gucht, who declined to give details. Some
media reports say the U.S. level was 88 percent.
"The U.S. offer is less ambitious so we have told them very
clearly that they have to match our offer before we can
proceed," De Gucht told Reuters in an interview on Feb. 28.
"That's a fact of life."