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However, to many of its proponents, it is the other elements that the FTA could encompass, such as regulation, procurement, common standards and investment protection, where its true value would lie, providing a significant for both economies.
“For example a pharmaceutical company that got approval for a product in Europe could automatically get it in the US — a huge cost reduction,” suggests Irwin, who likens the deal likely to emerge more to a “partnership” than a pure trade agreement.
The report was swiftly welcomed by the US government and European Commission, which described a potential FTA as a “bold initiative” to expand trade and investment and make a significant contribution to a strategy to strengthen growth and create jobs. British Prime Minister David Cameron has included the start of negotiations on a US-EU FTA on his list of priorities for Britain’s current Presidency of the G8, and despite his party’s increasingly Eurosceptic stance. I think there is certainly enough political will to see this through,” says Sony Kapoor, managing director of European think tank Re-Define.
Indeed, given that an estimated €1.8 billion worth of goods and services are traded every day between the US and Europe, its rather surprising its taken so long to get to this point.
However, over the past year, it has been picking up pace.
Last year, an interim report by a US-EU High Level Working Group called for a “comprehensive” deal covering a wide range of issues — from the elimination of all duties on bilateral trade to improving the compatibility of regulations and standards and increasing access to government procurement opportunities.
Just as the New Year dawned, on January 3, 2013, in an embarrassing indictment to the Government, the bench of honorable justices R. R Dave of the Supreme Court reportedly observed that uncontrolled Clinical Trials (CT) are creating ‘havoc’ to human life causing even deaths to patients.
Better late than never: In conformance to the well known saying – “better late than never”, it appears that after reportedly around 2,242 deaths related to CT and under immense pressure from the civil society and the Supreme Court, the Government has now left with no options but to bring US$ 500 million CT segment of the country, which is expected to cross US$ 1 Billion by 2016, under stringent regulations.
Experts believe that the growth of the CT segment in India is driven mainly by the overseas players for easy availability of a large patient population with varying disease pattern and demographic profile at a very low cost, as compared to many other countries across the world.
“There was no progress because of the complexity of the issues and no strong political consensus on either side of the Atlantic to push things through,” says Fred Irwin, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany.
The stalling of the Doha Round negotiations, and the lack of other opportunities of quite the scale that a trans-Atlantic partnership would have, is increasing interest, particularly in Europe; Germany, the UK, Spain and Greece among the countries to have expressed their support for a deal.
“The Americans have shown less political will — they are willing to negotiate but have focused on the small details,” he says.