Italian and Dutch prime ministers Mario Monti and Mark Rutte argued for a transatlantic free-trade agreement at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday.
Another 2 percent growth
Rutte, who leads a left-right coalition in the Netherlands, argued that strengthening the European single market could produce 4 percent extra growth over the next decade.
“If we would finally be able to close a foreign trade agreement with Japan, with the United States, we could add another 2 percent,” he claimed.
Asked about the chances of cementing a transatlantic free-trade area in the next couple of years, the Dutch premier said “it is possible to come to an agreement.”
Even if the United States shift their economic and strategic focus to Asia, “to be effective in this relationship between the United States and Asia, they have to work very well together with Europe,” said Rutte. “We should have [had] this years ago.”
Monti, who is expected to lose power in an election next month, agreed it is “crucial” to expand trade relations between Europe and the United States.
“I think it will require important adjustments in policies on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said, specifically in agriculture, which is heavily subsidized in both the European Union and the United States.
“But I think it will eventually be done.”
Left-wing parties in Italy as well as France, where François Hollande’s Socialists are in power, will be reluctant to cut farm subsidies.
Especially if Northern European countries like Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom push for an expansion of the single market, which Mediterranean governments, more prone to protectionism, regard as a threat to their own, less competitive services industries.