US business leaders doubt merits of trade partnership

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Chief executives in the US are much more skeptical about plans to create a transatlantic trade partnership between the US and the EU than their European counterparts, according to a poll of executives in both continents.

The poll, which was conducted by opinion pollsters TNS on behalf of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and will be published on Friday, found that executives in the US expect few benefits from the dismantling of regulatory barriers between the US and Europe.

Two out of five US executives even said such an agreement was “not important”.

European business leaders, on the other hand, came out broadly supportive of the proposals.

The harmonisation of technical standards - a key element of the proposals put forward by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor - is considered important by only two out of five US executives.

Half of them think that harmonisation could even increase costs for business – an assumption that is only shared by 8 per cent of the European chief executives polled.

The findings could raise doubts about whether the Bush administration would be able to summon the necessary support from US businesses for a partnership.

Executives in both the US and Europe agree, however, that increased co-operation in the fight against terrorism and organised crime is important.

TNS asked 50 executives in the US and 20 each in Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Poland and Spain.

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