Transatlantic trade exchanges did not succumb to protectionism, but progress was hampered by the uncertain economic climate.
The US remains the most important market for European goods and services and by far the most important destination for European direct investment. 2011 was dominated by sluggish growth and economic uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic. Partly for this reason, it was not a good year for progress on improving the framework of Transatlantic economic exchanges, but at least there was no sign of protectionism.
On trade issues, there are still some significant bones of contention such as the dispute between Airbus and Boeing. In 2011, the WTO ruled that, although Airbus had not received prohibited export subsidies, some of the “launch investment” by four EU member states constituted an actionable subsidy that distorted the market. (Boeing also received unfair US government help.) In a parallel and drawn-out process, the European company EADS lost out to Boeing in a bid to supply $35 billion worth of refuelling tankers to the US Air Force. The EU, alongside other big players such as China, is also protesting against “zeroing” (the American practice of overcharging anti-dumping duties), but the US looks set to finally phase out the practice. While Europeans complain that Americans have better access to EU procurement markets than they have access to US ones, especially at the state level, a new revision of the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) was signed in December at the WTO. The GPA, which links 42 national markets, including all EU member states and the US, will slightly improve European access to US procurement markets.
However, because multilateral negotiations have been stalled for years, Americans are suggesting alternatives to the Doha Development Agenda (DDA). This would be a setback to the European vision, which favours negotiating within the formal multilateral forum of the WTO. Meanwhile, the main outcome of the November summit of the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC), created in 2007 to help integrate the EU and US economies and remove regulatory and trade barriers, was the creation of a high-level working group. On this issue - a disappointing result.