Friday

25th May 2018

EU and US negotiators gather for more TTIP talks

  • Anti-TTIP activists sprayed graffiti on the EU Commission buildings ahead of this week's negotiations. (Photo: TTIP Game Over official Facebook page)

The EU still hopes to reach one of the biggest bilateral trade deals in history before US president Barack Obama leaves the White House in January.

But they still have find common ground on a number of issues and swing public opinion, and the bloc is about to lose a major free trade defender - the UK, which could be less focused on working for an EU deal while it would have to negotiate its own trade agreements after Brexit is effective.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

More than a hundred officials are involved in the 14th round of negotiations on the EU-US Transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), taking place in Brussels all week.

This time around, talks will cover all aspects of the deal, which aims to bring together the world’s two largest economic blocs by addressing all kinds of trade barriers.

If all goes well, a first draft of the text will emerge by the end of the summer, an EU source said on Friday (8 July).

But the Commission had hoped to reach end-game negotiations already with the previous round, in April. The talks initially aimed to conclude under the previous EU Commission in 2014 and also failed to respect the second deadline of December 2015.

Frustrated EU leaders have laid the blame on the American side, which they accuse of not really running with the ball.

EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstroem has claimed, however, that the main stumbling block at this stage is ”populism”.

Almost 3.5 million people have signed a petition to stop TTIP and CETA, a similar EU trade deal with Canada. Almost 1,900 cities, municipalities, and regions across Europe have declared themselves TTIP-free zones .

Last week, anti-TTIP activists sprayed graffiti on the European Commission buildings, walls and pavements in the European quarters, and the office of Businesseurope, the European business federation. They promised to disrupt negotiations by ”massive” civil disobedience, including a casserole concert.

Who's to blame

Fault has been found with Jose Manuel Barroso, the previous leader of the European Commission, who launched TTIP negotiations a year before his term ended and also set out to sign them off.

The Portuguese considered that the best way to achieve a quick deal would be by keeping almost everyone in the dark. The strategy unravelled though, unleashing fears that the deal would undermine EU standards in the field of consumer protection, environmental legislation and workers' rights.

The next commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker has enhanced transparency by setting up a citizens' forum where chief negotiators report back to stakeholders during every round. The Commission also established a new unit that publishes negotiation texts and answers public concerns.

”The Juncker commission has tried to narrow the gap between political elites and citizens,” said Eugenia da Conceicao-Heldt, a professor of European and Global Governance at the Bavarian School of Public Policy. ”But people are not really reading the texts, which are very complex and technical.”

She added the deal wouldn't be acceptable to either side unless it brought overall benefits - but didn’t rule out there would be losers of increased competition, notably in agriculture, an area where almost no progress has been achieved.

Trade has turned political

”It’s the first time in EU history that a trade deal has turned political,” da Conceicao-Heldt said. ”It’s very good to have a combination of business representatives and civil society representatives to talk about what’s on the negotiation table.”

But constructive talks are difficult in the context of wide-spread distrust, and the deal is mainly carried by EU institutions, already under pressure of Brexit, refugee and euro crises. Some member states, such as France, with a presidential election coming up, have been publicly distancing themselves from the deal while voting to endorse the Commission’s mandate, which was last renewed in June. Britain’s vote to leave the EU sidelines one of the staunchest champions of free trade.

”The EU doesn’t need another crisis,” Conceicao-Heldt said. If member states used the EU executive as a scapegoat, rather than helped it to explain the benefits of trade, trade negotiations were likely to get stuck and EU institutions weakened.

US and Japan warn UK on EU trade

Washington and Tokyo say trade relations with the EU are more important to them than those with Britain in the context of Brexit.

Kerry to promote free-trade deal on EU tour

Secretary of state John Kerry will give speeches in the coming months to "help people to understand exactly the positive side" of the EU-US free trade talks.

EU admits 'unrealistic' to close TTIP deal this year

EU trade ministers said it was not realistic to finalise talks on the TTIP trade treaty before the end of the year. But they agreed to a similar deal with Canada and will take steps to have it ratified.

Debt relief talks mars Greece's bailout exit

While the Greek government has committed to fulfill the last creditors' requirements in the coming month, Europeans and the International Monetary Fund are still far from an agreement on measures to reduce the country's debt in the future.

Analysis

EU has no 'magic bullet' against US Iran sanctions

EU leaders in Sofia will discuss how they can protect the bloc's economic interests against US threats to sanction companies doing business in Iran. But their options are limited.

Opinion

EU budget must not fortify Europe at expense of peace

Given the European Commission new budget's heavy focus on migration, border management and security, many are asking whether the proposal will fortify Europe at the expense of its peace commitments.

News in Brief

  1. Italy set to pick eurosceptic finance minister
  2. UK foreign minister fooled by Russian pranksters
  3. Rajoy ally gets 33 years in jail for corruption
  4. Close race as polls open in Irish abortion referendum
  5. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  6. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  7. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  8. UK households hit with Brexit income loss

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight