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John Kerry’s European Visit Kicks Up TAFTA Talks. Will They Be Mere Whispers Like TPP Negotiations?

John Kerry listens to an interpreter. Will he listen to us just as closely?

On his first tour of Europe as Secretary of State, John Kerry has been pushing for a free trade agreement with European nations calling it a “priority of President Obama’s second term.” The Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement — or, TAFTA — claims to reinvent the struggling economic relationship between the EU and the United States. Last month, President Barack Obama said that “trade that is free and fair across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”

After meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, Kerry promoted the positive effect that TAFTA would have for both sides:

“We think this is something that can help lift the economy of Europe, strengthen our economy, create jobs for Americans, for Germans for all Europeans, and create one of the largest allied markets in the world,” he told reporters alongside Merkel. “It will help raise standards, it will help break down barriers, and we believe it is good for all of us.”

Following a one-on-one meeting with Kerry, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said of TAFTA’s timeline,

“We see here a window of opportunity. It’s a window of opportunity that we need to seize in the interest of growth, and jobs for Germany, the United States and Europe.”

In predicting TAFTA’s success, Andras Simonyi, Managing Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations (CTR) at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, told The Huffington Post that transparency and early involvement with Congress and the EU would help fast-track the free trade agreement. This would represent a diametrically opposed approach to the dubious, clandestine negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership which has been ridiculed and derided by onlookers:

All stakeholders must be involved early. They all have to take ownership of the project. The U.S. administration and its partner, the EU commission, must involve the European Parliament and Congress. Member states of the EU are to be kept abreast of the talks, but their leaders must also show leadership and put narrow-minded national interests aside. The representatives of business and the labor organizations, energy companies and environmental groups, the movie business and artists must all be part of the debate. Having all these on the side of the agreement can seal the deal. Not having their support, could kill it. It has now become a slogan that the U.S. administration wants to get this done on one tank of gas. That tank of gas will only be enough if the imaginary vehicle is not overloaded and is given a roadmap as clear, as smooth and as short as possible.


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