Germany wants comprehensive EU-U.S. free trade deal: minister

Sun Feb 17, 2013 7:44am EST
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BERLIN (Reuters) - German Economy Minister Philipp Roesler wants the European Union and the United States to reach a comprehensive transatlantic free trade agreement rather than settle for the limited deal some southern EU nations favor.

Roesler told Der Spiegel magazine on Sunday he and the German government want a sweeping free trade deal, while France and southern EU nations, by contrast, want to protect their agriculture industry with regulations and also keep out genetically modified U.S. foodstuffs, the magazine said.

Roesler has backing from a study by the Ifo economic institute think tank that said the advantages of the free trade zone would be larger with a comprehensive deal.

"We're striving to achieve a major breakthrough and we're not just looking for a minimal consensus," Roesler told Der Spiegel. "It would be damaging to put limits on the agenda for the talks beforehand and exclude certain sectors."

The Ifo study, carried out for the Economy Ministry, found that per capita gross domestic product (GDP) would rise by 0.1 percent in the EU and 0.2 percent in the United States with the free trade deal if only customs barriers were abolished.

But more could be expected if the governments introduced common technical standards, safety standards and competition rules, Ifo said.

The United States and the EU aim to start negotiating a vast free trade pact by June, but the plan faces many hurdles before it could help revive the world's top two economies.

The deal would be the most ambitious since the founding of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, embracing half of world output and a third of trade.

But after a year of preparatory discussions between Brussels and Washington, major differences remain, such as EU resistance to importing U.S. foodstuffs that are genetically modified.   Continued...

Germany's Economy Minister Philipp Roesler attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener