Launching on Monday, the talks open in the wake of media reports on alleged large-scale spying by the US government.
On the eve of the meeting, representatives of EU member states discussed the issue at a separate meeting at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, DC, Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States Žygimantas Pavilionis tells BNS on Monday.
Lithuania is coordinating the consultations as the EU presiding country.
"Yesterday, for the first time our oldest embassy in Washington experienced what the EU presidency is like, and my deputy chaired a preparatory EU meeting where EU member states discussed how the dialogue with America on data protection will be continued," the ambassador told by phone from Washington.
The meeting, scheduled to start later on Monday, will be chaired by Šatūnas and representatives of the European Commission as the executive arm of the European Union.
The consultation on data protection will take place simultaneously with EU-US talks on a free trade agreement. According to Pavilionis, around 80 officials from Brussels have come to negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
"The conversations on data protection are taking place simultaneously, they are not negotiations. A lot of bilateral contacts are taking place on the sidelines, for example, the German interior minister is on a visit to Washington. The issue is sensitive and the EU has no competence in such an area of intelligence," the ambassador said.
Talks on the largest-scale free trade agreement in the world came under threat last week amid claims that the US had spied on EU institutions. France demanded to postpone the process but it was later decided to continue the talks and hold simultaneous consultations on ensuring data protection and privacy rights.
Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas LInkevičius on Monday welcomed the start of the free trade talks and said that it would promote growth and job creation.
"We are glad that the beginning of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the EU will be marked by an event that is very significant for global economy. After all, if the negotiations are successful - and we shall make every effort to ensure that they are - bilateral trade and investment will be invigorated. New jobs on both sides of the Atlantic will have a positive impact on the development of global trade rules and standards," Linkevičius said.
There are about 150 negotiators in 24 working groups, including working groups on the opening of markets for agricultural products, energy and raw materials, competition, services, public procurement, customs and trade facilitation, rules concerning origin, as well as veterinary and phytosanitary measures. These negotiations are very important, and are expected to be intense.
The EU and US have spent the past year preparing for the free trade agreement negotiations. The bilateral EU-US High Level Working Group was specially set up to explore the opportunities and benefits that would result from such an agreement. At the beginning of 2013, the EU-US High Level Working Group recommended that negotiations on a comprehensive trade and investment agreement should aim to achieve ambitious outcomes in three broad areas: a) market access; b) regulatory issues and non-tariff barriers; and c) rules, principles, and new modes of cooperation to address shared global trade challenges and opportunities.
"The European Commission estimates that the conclusion of such an agreement between the EU and the US could bring an overall annual increase of 0.5 percent in GDP for the EU. In such a situation, EU exports to the US are estimated to go up by 28 percent, equivalent to an additional EUR 187 billion worth of exports of EU goods and services (EUR 119 billion a year)," the statement said.