Saturday, October 19, 2013

Free trade and billable hours

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso during a speech in June selling the potential of an EU-US free trade agreement (the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) --

I believe that the EU-US trade negotiations are a game changer and can be the start of a new era. They will further intensify the economic relationship between the United States and European Union, two economic giants eager to be as successful in the future as they were in the past. They will add to the international push for trade liberalization, hammering out a new framework for open, transparent and balanced trade that fits the realities of the global economy. But most of all, they will reaffirm the global role and responsibility of both partners, which goes much beyond economics. Together, we share a world view based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law. We share an engagement and the ambition to cooperate across borders, to think and act multilaterally, to look for global solutions to global problems.

A fascinating New York Times article on how the Washington DC K Street lobbying culture is replicating itself in the agreeable environs of elite Brussels --

On a brisk night in September, with American lawyers as hosts, the library’s reading room was packed with dozens of executives from corporations including Boeing, Intel and Samsung, along with senior staff members of the European Commission. The guest of honor was James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Treasury and chief of staff to two presidents. He was looking so fit, at 83, that a lawyer asked him for nutrition tips. Mr. Baker had come to celebrate the first anniversary of the Brussels office of Baker Botts, the Houston-based law firm co-founded by his great-grandfather. As attendees nibbled on foie gras lollipops, dipped in a chocolate fondant, they discussed the potential business bonanza from trans-Atlantic trade negotiations that recently began between Europe and the United States. The goal of the negotiations is to “harmonize” the regulatory systems of the United States and Europe, so that companies can meet a single standard — worth hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, in savings for businesses, particularly if they can persuade negotiators to accept less strict rules in the process. The deal making could also mean a huge wave of lucrative lobbying and legal work in Brussels and in Washington for firms, which charge up to $1,000 an hour. “It ain’t going to be easy — it’s going to be tough,” Mr. Baker told the assembled crowd. “But it’s really important to get it done.”