By CHRIS TOMLINSON
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) â¿¿ Britain's deputy ambassador to the United States and a bipartisan collection of Texas politicians gathered at the state Capitol on Wednesday to build support for a new, expanded trade agreement with the European Union.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said the trade talks could create a free trade agreement that would encompass half of the world's gross domestic product.
"The Congress is committed to this, both Republicans and Democrats," he said.
Philip Barton, deputy head of mission at the British Embassy, said that while the U.S. and EU have eliminated most tariffs on trade, non-tariff barriers remain and they will be the focus of future talks. He said a free trade agreement would stimulate economies on both sides of the Atlantic and bring thousands of jobs and billions in trade to Texas.
"We understand the need to do away with unnecessary barriers to commerce," Barton said. "And we know that competitive economies like Texas and the U.K. stand to gain most from this process of liberalization."
Texas exported $29 billion worth of products to the European Union last year, and Barton said a free trade agreement could add an additional $10 billion a year in trade for Texas.
The 27-country EU said such an agreement, first announced by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address, would be the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated. Any agreement could boost the EU's economic output by 0.5 percent and the United States' by 0.7 percent, according to some estimates.
That would be a highly desirable outcome when the EU and the U.S. are both struggling with slow growth, high unemployment and high levels of debt.
McCaul pointed out that free trade agreements with Mexico, Colombia and South Korea all led to increased trade with Texas companies.