Unions and states are asking the Bush administration to reject demands by the European Union that the U.S. open everything from higher education to letter-sorting to foreign competition.
The EU demands, coming in a confidential request that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick will respond to today, called for the U.S. to remove restrictions on foreign companies' ability to buy water utilities, radio stations and oil pipelines.
The Europeans also want the removal of what they say are cumbersome and conflicting state laws that block their companies from selling liquor and new immigration procedures so their workers can more easily come to the U.S., according to their request, which is part of World Trade Organization talks.
Freeing up rules governing foreign investment in banks and energy companies, as well as trade in so-called services, is seen by U.S. companies such as Citigroup Inc., Halliburton Co. and Microsoft Corp. as crucial for expanding the world economy.
Trade in services has been the fastest-growing component of global commerce during the last 15 years, and is worth more than $2 trillion a year, according to the World Bank. U.S. exports in services support 4 million American jobs, Zoellick has said.
Resolving the differences on services is necessary to complete WTO talks later this year on lowering trade barriers, an effort that may add $700 billion to the world economy, according to one estimate.
Critics say the trade negotiators have over-reached their mandate by concentrating on issues that have nothing to do with tariffs or shipments of goods.
From Bloomberg News