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16th Dec 2017

EU and US aim for 2015 trade deal, exclude financial services

  • Financial services won't be part of an EU-US trade deal, the US ambassador told the European Business Summit

Trade negotiators will look to complete an EU-US trade deal before the end of 2015, senior officials have agreed. But a deal will not include financial services, after the US ambassador all but ruled out discussion of harmonising financial regulation.

"We don't see the need for financial services to be part of TTIP [the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership]" the US ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner, told Europe's trade commissioner Karel de Gucht and delegates at the European Business Summit in Brussels on Thursday (15 May),

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"The [US] Treasury has been very clear on this and I don't see much chance of them changing their position," he added.

The move came as a disappointment to De Gucht, who had called for financial services to be part of a deal just minutes earlier. But it does not come as a surprise.

The Americans are unwilling to put financial services on the table on the grounds that EU financial regulation is less strict than the so-called Dodd-Frank bill adopted in 2010 in response to the 2008 financial crisis.

Recent experiences of trans-Atlantic co-operation in financial regulation have not been promising.

In talks separate to the TTIP, the EU and US in February could only reach agreement on how to regulate the multi-trillion dollar derivatives market at the 11th hour following a tense showdown between regulators.

It is the first policy area to be excluded from discussion by the Americans. The EU has already made clear that the audiovisual and culture sectors cannot be part of the talks, at the insistence of the French government.

Meanwhile, all participants agreed that they faced an uphill battle to convince a sceptical public of the merits of a trade deal, which the European Commission estimates could be worth up to €100 billion for the EU alone.

Earlier, police had prevented anti-TTIP protestors from accessing the summit in central Brussels and made a number of arrests.

Inside the summit, supporters of a trade accord accused their opponents of spreading "myths" and "lies" about its implications.

"Our opponents are killing this," said Tim Bennett, director general of the Transatlantic Business Council.

"We've been too timid ... talking only to people who are already convinced," commented Gardner, adding that "we need to go after these myths and destroy them".

De Gucht complained that TTIP had become a victim of the EU election campaign.

"This debate has got caught up with the European election campaign. Part of the left, Greens and far-left see TTIP as something to be beaten," he said, adding that he was "amazed" when Martin Schulz, the socialist candidate for the Commission presidency, had called for trade talks to be postponed.

The US ambassador did agree with De Gucht that officials should look to complete negotiations on a deal by the end of 2015 despite the disagreements.

"It is obvious that there will be no major breakthroughs before the US mid-terms [Congress and Senate elections in November]," said De Gucht, adding that "we should agree on a political timeline to get an agreement in 2015. The political deadline is the end of next year."

The fifth round of talks on TTIP will take place next week in Washington DC.

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