US and EU trade talks 'make progress' says negotiator

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Image caption The trade deal aims to reduce taxes on imports

The US and the European Union have made "steady progress" on a trade and investment agreement, according to America's chief negotiator.

His European counterpart said the two teams had continued with work towards an ambitious agreement.

The US and EU have been negotiating now for almost a year as they seek a deal to stimulate commerce between them.

The project is called the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

The aim is to reduce or even eliminate tariffs - taxes on imported goods. They also want to reduce the barriers to trade that result from differences in regulation, though they insist there will be no reduction in the protection of consumers, health or the environment.

They also want to make it easier for businesses in one of the two economies to bid for government contracts in the other.

Regulation talk 'challenging'

The talks in Arlington Virginia are the fifth round in this process. Dan Mullaney, the US chief negotiator, said it has been a "good week". He said there were talks in nearly all areas.

Europe's Ignacio Garcia Bercero said they were already working on the basis of texts - they are trying to see how they can bring together the European and American proposals.

Mr Mullaney acknowledged however that the talks on regulation are proving to be "challenging".

TTIP (usually pronounced T-tip) is very controversial in Europe, though less so in the US. European campaigners fear that it could reduce health and environmental standards, despite reassurances from negotiators that it won't.

Many are particularly critical of the plans for what's called investor state dispute settlement. That's an arrangement that would enable foreign investors to seek compensation from a host government through arbitration in some circumstances; exactly what those circumstances would be is itself a matter of controversy and uncertainty.

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