Wednesday

20th Nov 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

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.

EU agrees 2020 budget deal

EU governments and the parliament agreed in marathon talks ino next year's budget - which will boost spending on climate, border protection, and the European satellite system. It will also be a benchmark if there is no long-term budget deal.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary, Poland block EU conclusions on rule of law
  2. France: wide EU backing for enlargement change
  3. EU Council calls for policy action to protect marine life
  4. ECJ: Poland's judicial independence in doubt
  5. Suspected 'middleman' in Caruana Galizia case arrested
  6. European populists more favourable to Russia
  7. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  8. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets

Opinion

Why von der Leyen must put rights at core of business

Ursula von der Leyen's in-tray must include those European executives on trial for systematic workplace harassment, the break-up of European slavery rings, and allegations of European companies' abuse in palm oil, including child labour, land grabs, and deforestation.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us