Monday

18th Feb 2019

EU admits 'unrealistic' to close TTIP deal this year

  • Cecilia Malmstroem and Peter Ziga attended an informal meeting of trade ministers in Bratislava on Friday (23 September). (Photo: Slovak presidency)

Negotiations on the EU-US free trade agreement TTIP will continue until 19 January 2016, before taking a "natural pause" when the Obama administration leaves the White House.

This was announced by Slovakia's minister of economy Peter Ziga and EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem following an informal meeting of trade ministers in Bratislava on Friday (23 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"We had a discussion on the state of play of negotiations and it ensued that it's not realistic to complete the talks before the end of the year," Ziga said.

"Some countries view the glass as empty, others as half-full, and the rest as half-empty. Many things still need to be achieved in negotiations."

Malmstroem, for her part, said "it was always [EU's] intention to sign a good agreement."

The comprehensive, new generation trade agreement had set out to scrap non-tariff barriers - such as mismatched rules and standards - which are holding back trade in the 21st century.

But it has been feared that increased trade could hurt sensitive groups in both blocs, such as farmers in the EU and American companies providing services and goods to US public procurement. So far, parties have failed to find compromise.

After three years and 14 rounds of negotiations, the EU and US still haven't managed to close a single negotiation chapter. The lack of progress has been accompanied by an unprecedented mobilisation of protesters who fear that TTIP could threaten social and environmental standards.

Now it seems that time has run out for the deal, at least in the foreseeable future.

Malmstroem reminded that when a new US president takes over, it will take five to six months before the US Senate appoints a trade representative.

"If we haven't finished negotiations by 19 January, there will be a natural pause," Malmstroem said. "When we re-start is a bit early to speculate."

At that time, however, election campaigns will be in full swing in France and Germany, where public opinion have been critical of TTIP.

On Friday morning, Austria's vice-chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner said TTIP talks should be called off after the US elections and resume with a better defined mandate, greater transparency, and a different name.

"In our view, and this is also the view of other countries, the current procedure will not lead to success," he said.

CETA declarations

Trade ministers, in parallel, agreed to saving the EU-Canada trade agreement, CETA.

"With CETA, we achieved everything we didn't get with TTIP," Ziga said. "CETA is a benchmark for trade agreements."

The deal was concluded two years ago already, but has since been awaiting ratification. Anti-TTIP feelings have rubbed off on CETA, which is called "a Trojan horse" and "TTIP's little sister" by trade critics.

In the face of public criticism, the European Commission had already bowed to pressure from member states, giving them power to ratify the deal, rather than leaving it only to EU institutions' approval.

But that makes CETA subject to the consent of up to 28 national and a few regional parliaments who feel they should have a say on EU trade policy. To speed up the deal, the commission suggested that CETA will be provisionally applied after receiving the European Parliament and Council’s backing.

Ziga pointed to the fact that Canada was both a like-minded and small country [of 35 million people], and Malmstroem asked whom the EU could do deals with, if it couldn't do it with Canada.

Still, the deal has been under fire from some of Europe's left-wing leaders who feared it could endanger social and environmental standards.

EU trade ministers in Bratislava said they would likely gather for an extraordinary meeting in mid-October and sign a declaration that specifies that CETA cannot be applied in a way that harms the provision of public services or lowers environmental standards.

Experts are also busy analysing what parts of the agreement could be applied provisionally and which clauses should be left for national assemblies to approve.

"It's likely that the parts related to investment protection belong to the latter category," Malmstroem said.

Some 100 organisations, including trade unions and environmental watchdogs had gathered outside the building in Bratislava where the trade ministers met, and called on their leaders to reject both CETA and TTIP.

Asked by a journalist whether ministers were concerned about what voters were saying, Malmstroem said:

"Of course, we all live in the real world, we are very much aware that there are protests in some countries. In the vast majority of countries, there is a general support for TTIP and CETA. We really are committed jointly that we have a good deal that respects the red lines."

Peter Ziga welcomed the fact that Bratislava attracted people who would not otherwise see his city.

"I’m happy this promotes tourism in Slovakia,” the trade minister said.

Canada woos sceptical EU left on trade deal

Future of CETA largely hangs on the support of Europe’s social democrats. Canada’s trade minister has been touring hotspots of scepticism to convince them that the deal is progressive.

France wants EU-US trade talks stopped

French trade minister called for "the pure, simple and definitive halt of these negotiations" because France was not backing them anymore.

US to help EU survive Brexit

Kerry said EU must stand up to populists, by fighting corruption, tax evasion, and terrorists. Urged "highly integrated" EU-UK relations.

TTIP negotiators lower expectations

At the end of the 15th round of TTIP talks, EU officials are no longer thinking of closing the deal before Barack Obama leaves office.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Opinion

Eastern Europe Matters

The foreign ministers of Sweden, Poland and the Czech Republic reflect on 10 years of the Eastern Partnership with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  8. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  9. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  11. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  12. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us