fb-pixel Skip to main content

Obama stumps for trade pact with Europe

Says deal will help small players, too

Karel De Gucht, the EU trade commissioner, said product tariffs, currently 4 percent on average, should drop to zero.Francois Lenoir/Reuters

BRUSSELS — President Obama and the top trade official for the European Union sought to rally support Tuesday for a landmark trans-Atlantic free trade deal, saying it would benefit a wide variety of exporters and offer a boost to growth.

Karel De Gucht, the EU trade commissioner, said one of the biggest beneficiaries of a trade deal with the United States would be automobile manufacturers like BMW that have long rankled at tariffs.

De Gucht was shoring up support for a mandate to negotiate on behalf of EU member states — like Germany, home to a powerful auto sector — and whose governments still must agree to let him lead the talks. He called on the bloc to “now quickly decide to open negotiations so work can begin with the United States before the summer break.”


De Gucht sought to assuage France, where there is widespread skepticism about free trade benefits, by suggesting that Paris would not have to dismantle quotas and subsidies designed to promote French films and cultural products.

His comments came as Obama spoke in Washington, indicating that ‘‘we’re going to need the help of industry and labor’’ to get a deal done.

“One of the things that we’ve also been trying to do during the course of this process is to make sure that it’s not just the Xeroxes and the Dow Chemicals that are benefiting from this,” Obama said.

“We actually think that there’s room for small and medium-size businesses to export directly — not just supplying large businesses, but also to break open and enter into these markets,” Obama told the President’s Export Council, his main trade advisory committee on international trade, made up of lawmakers and other officials.

Exports of motor vehicles from Europe to the United States could increase 149 percent if a deal removed existing tariffs and harmonized different safety standards, according to a study conducted by the Center for Economic Policy Research in London and released Tuesday by De Gucht’s office.


De Gucht said that product tariffs, currently 4 percent on average, should drop to zero.

The United States and ­Europe account for about half of global economic output and one-third of world trade. Bilateral trade in 2011 amounted to about $593 billion, according to De Gucht’s office.