Friday

20th Oct 2017

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).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"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. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  2. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving up to 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  3. European Jewish CongressEJC Applauds the Bulgarian Government for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  4. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  5. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  8. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  9. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  10. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  11. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!
  12. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  3. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  4. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  5. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  6. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  7. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  11. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Support Start-Ups