Wednesday

1st Feb 2023

EU-US trade pact to miss 2015 deadline

  • Malmstrom: trade deal could get caught up in the next US election (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

A 2015 deadline to agree a landmark trade deal with the United States is likely to be missed, EU trade officials have conceded.

"We cannot exclude that it may take longer," Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, told reporters following a meeting of EU trade ministers on Wednesday (25 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“We have to do our best to get an agreement but we don’t want to reach an agreement just for the sake of it,” he added. “The political will is there but there is an acceptance that it may take longer”.

“We are aiming to conclude this under the Obama administration … but I cannot give you a date,” said EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who added that ratification of TTIP could get caught up in the next US presidential election cycle.

The race to replace Barack Obama will begin in earnest in autumn, when the Democratic and Republican parties begin their nomination process ahead of the presidential election in November 2016.

Trade negotiators have now concluded eight rounds of talks with a view to agreeing a transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), but were given a provisional deadline of December 2015 by EU leaders to agree a draft text.

The most thorny issue for ministers remains the investor protection mechanism known as ISDS, which allows firms to take governments to court if they discriminate against them or introduce new laws which threaten their investments.

“ISDS is a hot potato,” conceded Rinkevics. He said there are “differences in opinion” amongst ministers, but added there is no indication that member states want to open up the EU-Canada trade agreement, which includes the controversial regime.

“I believe that we have made progress in aligning our opinions,” he said.

“We have started to make a proposal to reform this mechanism,” noted Malmstrom, which she said would focus on making investor protection “much more transparent and legitimate”.

“We hope to put forward an EU proposal on ISDS later this spring … I felt a very strong support [from ministers] for these reforms”.

The European Commission has made it clear that an investor protection regime should be part of TTIP. But it hopes to agree reforms with US officials in a bid to placate critics, who say it will allow multinationals to prevent governments from regulating in the public interest.

Malmstrom told a European Parliament hearing last week that the EU would propose including an article in the text making clear that governments are free to pursue public policy objectives they deem appropriate and that investment protection rules offer no guarantee to companies that the legal regime in which they invested will remain the same.

The commission will also propose the creation of a permanent court to arbitrate on cases.

In January, the commission published a 140-page report of findings following an online consultation to which 97 percent of submissions were opposed to the inclusion of ISDS.

US trade officials insist that investor protection is included in the agreement, however.

EU-US trade talks to drift into 2016

Negotiations on a landmark EU-US free trade deal will drag into 2016 - a blow to those hoping for a swift agreement under Barack Obama’s presidency.

Opinion

How TTIP could create a red tape labyrinth

The free-trade talks between the EU and the US could create a labyrinth of red tape effectively blocking new environmental, health or labour standards in the EU.

Column

Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?

Countries that were once democratising are now moving in the other direction — think of Turkey, Myanmar, Hungary or Tunisia. On the other hand, in autocracies mass mobilisation rarely succeeds in changing political institutions. Think of Belarus, Iran or Algeria.

Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk

Draft legislation in Poland aimed at relaxing some of Europe's strictest laws surrounding onshore wind-turbines has been derailed by a surprise last minute amendment, which could put Poland back on a collision course with the EU.

Opinion

More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies

Industrial energy-intense sectors, outside Germany and France, will not move to the US. They will go bust, as they cannot compete in a fragmented single market. So to save industry in two member states, we will kill the rest?

Latest News

  1. Hungary blames conspiracy for EU corruption rating
  2. Democracy — is it in crisis or renaissance?
  3. EU lobby register still riddled with errors
  4. Polish backpedal on windfarms put EU funds at risk
  5. More money, more problems in EU answer to US green subsidies
  6. Study: EU electricity transition sped into high gear in 2022
  7. Russia and China weaponised pandemic to sow distrust, MEPs hear
  8. Frontex to spend €100m on returning migrants this year

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us