US Seeks Support for Europe Trade Deal

US Seeks Support for Europe Trade Deal

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman received a welcome reception Sunday from Polish entrepreneurs as he worked to finalize a free trade pact between the United States and the European Union.

Froman said he hopes the deal, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, will finally be completed in 2016 after nearly three years of negotiations.

Still, there is strong resistance among some Europeans to the planned agreement, which aims to eliminate tariffs and create common regulatory standards between the world's two biggest economies. Opponents fear a lowering in food safety standards and the undermining of local regulations by giving international arbitration panels the power to rule over disputes.

In Warsaw, Froman told a group of young Poles with startups, among them software developers, that the deal would be especially helpful to small and medium-sized businesses like theirs. He said they would benefit from a harmonizing of regulatory standards and intellectual property protection.

"It's small and medium-sized businesses that are driving the economy. And if we can make life easier for them, it's good for all of our economies," Froman said.

While Polish farmers and many other Poles oppose the deal, those invited to meet with Froman seemed convinced that they could benefit from it.

"Good competition will be beneficial to both sides," said Krzysztolf Gogol, president of the management board of WealthArc, a financial technology startup.

The most visible opposition to the deal was seen in Berlin last October, when 150,000 people demonstrated against it.

Froman said Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos that neither side has any interest in lowering standards, whether that be regulatory protections, safety standards or environmental requirements.

During his visit Froman is also meeting with Polish leaders.

(KA)