British official talks trade pact

The British ambassador to the United States said Thursday that opposition by the leading U.S. Senate Democrat to a proposed north Atlantic trade pact should not slow negotiations.

Prior to visiting Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sir Peter Westmacott said he understands the reluctance of some interests to pass the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership .

Billed as the largest bilateral trade deal in history, T-TIP would lower tariffs and standardize regulations. It is supported by President Barack Obama, whose administration hopes to have the deal in place by the end of the year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said during a televised news conference that he would not invoke rules that would allow treaties to be presented to Congress for a quick vote. “I’m against fast track,” Reid said, adding the powers in the Senate and the Obama administration are well aware of his position. “I think everyone would be well advised just to not push this right now,” Reid said.

On Thursday, FoxNews said Reid had kneecapped the president and OpEdNews stated Reid’s opposition virtually killed the treaties.

“What is clear is there is some backtracking among some Democratic senators,” Westmacott said prior to visiting with Louisiana business and political leaders Thursday and Friday. “It doesn’t stop the negotiations … This is not going to be done for at least another year. There’s no rush.”

He made his comments while sampling crab and corn bisque and a locally brewed ale at Parrain’s Seafood on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge. He recalled that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu had invited him to visit Louisiana.

Serving as Great Britain’s official representative to the U.S. government since January 2012, Westmacott said the United States and European Union are the two biggest economies in the world. Together, they account for about a third of the world’s gross domestic product and 40 percent of its trade. The European Union purchased $8.7 billion worth of Louisiana goods, mostly petrochemical products in 2012, he said.

Westmacott said he would tell Jindal that Louisiana could expect to see a 21 percent increase in exports of its goods to the European Union. It would eventually boost employment by up to 10,480 jobs in the state, according to a British government study.

“We are optimistic and hopeful about expanded trade that will lead to more job creation in Louisiana and the United States,” Jindal said in a prepared statement after meeting with Westmacott in the Governor’s Mansion on Thursday.

“With that said, the proof will be in the pudding. If the Obama Administration negotiates terms that undermine the sovereignty of U.S. interests, then we would be forced to oppose particular trade deals.”

Tariff barriers are on the agenda for the next round of negotiations set for mid-February in Washington, D.C. Obama plans to visit Brussels, Belgium, for a summit scheduled at the end of March.

Westmacott said he understands that the trade agreement engenders opposition in some quarters. The deal would create a one-size fits all set of standards recognized by both the U.S. and most of Europe.

For instance, cars made to be sold in Europe could pass muster to be sold in the U.S. without costly equipment modifications.

However, some unions, environmentalists and regulators oppose making the standards uniform.

In addition to Jindal, Westmacott was scheduled to visit with Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, as well as business and political leaders in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

On Friday, he plans to visit the Chalmette battlefield, where the Battle of New Orleans took place in 1815.

He will be briefed on plans for an interactive monument that will recall the battle and remember the two centuries of friendship between the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Westmacott also will address Tulane University on the Middle East.