There was some progress on the usual disputes, but the energy on both sides was focused on preparing a major transatlantic free-trade deal for 2013.
2012 brought mixed results in resolving the traditional transatlantic disputes in trade and investment. On the one hand, the old rivalry between Airbus and Boeing continued. In September, the Europeans lodged a new request with the WTO to impose annual sanctions of more than €9 billion to Washington for failing to comply with the previous no-subsidy ruling. The EU is also pushing the US to relax its foreign-ownership rules for airlines, which requires approval by Congress. On the other hand, however, there was notable progress on longstanding disputes. For example, in March 2012, the European Parliament voted to end the transatlantic beef war with the US, expanding quotas for high-quality, non-hormone-treated US beef imports, in exchange for an agreement by the US to lift restrictions on European beef and veal imports. The issue had been contentious since 1996.
While these traditional issues are important, in 2012 a large part of the work and efforts of the EEAS, including that of the EU delegation in Washington, was in support of the High Level Working Group (HLWG) on Jobs and Growth. The HLWG was established during the US–EU summit of November 2011 to explore the possibility of a far-reaching transatlantic free-trade area, in particular through the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers. It released its interim report in June 2012 and its final report in early 2013.
While nothing substantial came out of these efforts in the course of 2012, the potential implications of the work done during that year are momentous. If concluded, a Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA) could boost trade and investment between the two sides of the Atlantic, adding substantial activity in a time of slow growth and strengthening the ability of the West to define industrial standards and norms. Among those member states that were particularly active in the efforts to pave the way for negotiations were the UK and Germany, as well as Poland and Spain, and no member states opposed the efforts.