US-Europe Trade: Seize the Historic Opportunity

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This week in Washington, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations are set to begin. These negotiations represent an historic opportunity to strengthen the trade and investment relationship with the European Union and boost economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

The idea of a transatlantic free trade area is not a new one; indeed the idea has been around for decades but most observers said a deal would be too difficult for a whole host of reasons.

No longer.

Weak economic growth has convinced both governments that now is the time to fashion a comprehensive, ambitious and high-standard transatlantic accord.

Such an agreement must not only eliminate tariffs; it must tackle non-tariff barriers – including regulations, standards, testing certifications and many other "behind-the-border" measures – that needlessly increase the cost of trade between the U.S. and Europe.

It will not be easy – there are some real differences in the way the US and the EU approach regulation. But progress does not require either side to give up their respective regulatory regimes. Through a combination of mutual recognition, impact assessments and regulatory dialogue we can bridge our regulatory differences and identify opportunities to eliminate needless or redundant bureaucratic red tape without impacting important health, safety, environmental and investor protections.

The other major benefit that can come from the TTIP is the opportunity to have the US and the EU aligned on many of the critical 21st century trade issues that we both face around the world. Whether it is on state sponsored enterprises, digital trade, intellectual property, investment, supply chains or services trade, forging common ground between the US and the EU will produce a set of high standards that should become the global norm.

Common standards will help US and European companies operating around the world and will make the transatlantic region more globally competitive.

One issue that is especially important to FedEx is trade facilitation – making the movement of goods across borders more efficient and less costly. Trade facilitation, or customs modernization, can reduce the administrative cost of trade by as much as 10 percent.

We should use the TTIP to make trade between the US and the EU as seamless as possible by reducing unnecessary or duplicative customs and security procedures. Good work has already been done in this area and the TTIP can provide additional impetus to go even further. A strong trade facilitation outcome will make the other trade-promoting elements of the TTIP that much more meaningful.

The United States and the European Union have the largest trade and investment relationship in the world, worth over $5 trillion. Together we generate half of the world's output. Further integrating our two economies will generate economic growth and jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Let's set our sights high and seize this historic opportunity.

—Michael Ducker is chief operating officer and president, international for FedEx Express. He serves on the advisory committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations for the Obama Administration.