Monday

21st Jan 2019

Setback for TTIP as Congress holds on to trade powers

  • The free-trade deal is designed to boost bilateral trade by tens of billions of euros (Photo: dawvon)

A fast conclusion to talks between the EU and US on a trade deal became less likely Tuesday, after US senators refused to give president Barack Obama the power to negotiate on their behalf.

Obama had wanted the green-light to fasttrack negotiations and needed the support of 60 out of 100 senators.

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  • The EU Commission suggests the US-EU trade deal could increase annual economic growth by €119bn (Photo: European Commission)

But the Trade Promotion Authority bill failed to pass with 52 senators voting in favour, and 45 against.

If the bill had been passed, Congress would have given away its right to amend international trade deals for the next five years and limited the legislature's influence to a yes/no vote.

The US president had that authority between 2002 and 2007, but it has not been renewed since.

Remarkably, Obama's support came mostly from Republicans, with only one Democrat voting in favour.

The vote means the US Congress keeps its power to amend or filibuster any trade deals the president agrees on, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The European Commission, for its part, has been promoting the trade deal, which would remove custom duties and harmonise EU-US regulations and standards.

It expects TTIP to increase EU economic growth by €119 billion a year. But civil society groups and NGOs have come out strongly against the treaty, arguing it will lead to a lowering of EU consumer and environment standards.

A tenth round of talks is expected to take place in July, but negotiations are taking longer than expected. The EU's chief negotiator said last month that talks will have to continue into 2016, despite an initial deadline of the end of 2015.

Tuesday's vote took place with another trade deal in mind, the US-Asia-Latin American Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would include the US, Japan, Australia and nine other countries. TPP talks have been progressing faster than TTIP talks.

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