TTIP by end of 2015, EU leaders pledge
By Benjamin Fox
EU leaders have given negotiators until the end of 2015 to conclude talks on a trade deal with the United States following the final summit of 2014 in Brussels.
Wrapping up on Thursday night (18 December), leaders in a joint communique said “the EU and the US should make all efforts to conclude negotiations on an ambitious, comprehensive and mutually beneficial TTIP by the end of 2015”.
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“The aim is still 2015”, commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters at the post-summit press conference.
EU and US trade officials will gather in Washington in February for the next round of talks, on a deal which the European Commission estimates could be worth as much as €100 billion extra to the EU’s GDP.
Talks on the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) have progressed in most areas, with both sides tabling offers to remove almost all remaining tariff barriers and proposing to harmonise standards.
But the anti-TTIP campaign has gained popular strength over the course of 2014.
The status of investor protection clauses has become one of the most hotly disputed issues in the talks.
Critics say that a mechanism known as investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) could be used by companies to take legal action against governments if they put public welfare before profits.
The commission parked the issue by opening a public consultation on ISDS at the start of the year and won't take a decision on whether ISDS can be included in the talks until next spring.
Prior to the summit, UK prime minister David Cameron held talks with business leaders and the prime ministers of Italy, Spain, Denmark, Poland, Latvia and Finland on how to “bust some of the myths that are being put around," on the proposed deal.
Cameron has come under pressure to ensure that Britain's publicly-run national health service would not be threatened.
For his part, Juncker insisted that EU negotiators would “remain faithful to the principles of Europe”.
“This will not end up with Europe jettisoning a number of principles to which we are attached, in particular, public services,” he said, adding that “public services will not be sidelined … in the same way that water will not be privatised”.
But for her part, trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is adopting a more cautious tone.
Speaking earlier on Thursday in Geneva, she told reporters that “having a full deal ready to put to member states by the end of 2015 is probably not realistic.”
The closer that the talks get to the next US presidential elections in November 2016, the more likely that a deal will be kicked into the long grass by US political leaders.
Both the US Congress and the European Parliament would have to ratify any trade agreement before it could come into force.