Friday

26th May 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).

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.

"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. Malloch will not be US ambassador to the EU
  2. 'Significant' drop in EU migration to UK
  3. Bomb injures former Greek PM
  4. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  5. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  6. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  7. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  8. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus
  2. ACCABanishing Bias? Audit, Objectivity and the Value of Professional Scepticism
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Oslo Climate Declaration Focuses on Rising Temperatures in the Arctic
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceAbdominal Obesity: A Causal Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases
  5. EU Green Week 2017Discuss EU Environmental Policies With Industry Experts and Thought Leaders
  6. GEN Summit 2017Join the World's Leading Media Summit for Thought-Provoking Talks and Experiences
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTogether for Human Rights: A Year in Review
  8. Malta EU 2017EU All Set for Free Roaming Starting 15 June
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersRefugee Unemployment Biggest Drain on Public Purse, Says New Nordic Studies
  10. Dialogue Platform17,000 Women, 515 Babies in Turkish Prisons, a Report Reveals
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  12. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey