LOBBYING by EU and US companies is accelerating as the two continents prepare to negotiate on an agreement that will form the world's largest free trade union.
Ferrari wants to ship its luxury sports cars to the US without having to pay duties, and the owner of KFC is seeking lower tariffs on chicken wings exported to feed hungry Europeans.
Wal-Mart and Intel are among the 367 parties who have weighed in as the US Trade Representative's office opened two days of hearings on the matter yesterday.
Getting negotiations going on the free trade agreement has been one of the main achievements of Ireland's EU presidency. But the talks run the risk of being stalled by special interests. Officials plan to move quickly, beginning in July, and plan to end by 2014. The American Automotive Policy Council, a Washington-based group that represents Ford, General Motors and Fiat's Chrysler Group, is among those seeking the elimination of tariffs and a streamlining of EU and US rules.
And while some levies may not be high, "when a restaurant company is importing millions of dollars of product annually, the additional duty cost is quite significant", says a filing from Yum! Brands of Kentucky, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.
Others with concerns include FedEx, which wants goods under $800 (€617) to be duty-free. It says the $200 US minimum and €22 EU minimum creates a burden for small and medium-sized businesses that sell merchandise online.