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By Doug Palmer and Douwe Miedema – WASHINGTON | Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:15pm EDT
(Reuters) – The United States and the UK aim to include financial services in a proposed free-trade agreement between Washington and the 27-nation European Union, the British ambassador to the United States said on Thursday.
The accord would aim to smooth out regulatory differences that have stunted U.S.-EU trade in areas such as agriculture, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and autos. The EU is already the largest U.S. trading partner.
“We are pretty keen, pretty clear, that as the owners of the two most significant international financial centers, on either side of the Atlantic … that we would both like to see financial services covered by these negotiations,” said Peter Westmacott, the UK ambassador to the United States.
The agreement would likely address issues such as what percentage of people on the board of a foreign bank need to be U.S. citizens, and what stake foreign banks can hold in U.S. financial institutions, another UK diplomat said.
That letter outlined the administration’s desire to negotiate new market openings for U.S. services companies and to improve regulatory cooperation across the Atlantic. It did not specifically mention financial services sectors such as banking or insurance.
But working groups from the U.S.-EU business coalition are already looking at market access barriers and regulatory issues related to insurers and banks and considering comments from companies, a U.S. business official said.
“We think it might be sensible drawing the world’s attention to the importance of (the trade pact) before, during or after the G8 summit … that might be a good time to get it all going,” Westmacott said.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer and Douwe Miedema, writing by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Xavier Briand and Peter Cooney)