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Latest Round of U.S.-EU FTA Talks Deemed “Productive” but Much Work Remains

Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

U.S. and European Union officials deemed the fifth round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations last week “productive” but said that much work remains to be done. Chief negotiators Dan Mullaney and Ignacio Garcia Bercero said negotiators are now discussing proposed agreement wording in most of the negotiating areas, including technical barriers to trade, competition, state-to-state dispute settlement, and small and medium-sized businesses, and fully expect to move to discussions on agreement text in the remaining areas in the near future. The next round of talks is slated for July.

Mullaney highlighted work done during the latest round on reducing barriers and costs that arise due to unnecessary regulatory and standards differences while maintaining high levels of health, safety and environmental protection. He said the two sides are “pursuing this objective first by exploring cross-cutting disciplines to broaden input into the regulatory and standard-setting processes.” He explained that “if members of the public, stakeholders with an interest, have an opportunity to comment on proposed regulations, proposed directives or other issues … sufficiently early in the process that the regulators can take actions as a result of comments, I think this can result in both better regulation and less divergent regulation.” Negotiators are also discussing ideas to promote greater regulatory compatibility in a range of sectors, including medical devices, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, information communication technologies, automobiles, pesticides and chemicals. Mullaney acknowledged that work in this area “is proving challenging” but said “these challenges were not unexpected.”

Bercero also spoke about the regulatory component of the talks, indicating that more work needs to be done in terms of both horizontal regulatory disciplines and concrete outcomes in key sectors. He noted that in sectors like chemicals “where harmonization or mutual recognition is clearly not an option” negotiators are instead focusing on how to identify practical ways of enhancing the exchange of information in a manner that would help the regulatory processes on both sides of the Atlantic.

The two officials also gave the following updates.

- The U.S. has yet to submit a second tariff elimination offer but there was a discussion to clarify some elements of each side’s offers.

- There have been specific discussions on textiles, including tariffs and greater convergence of regulatory approaches, but nothing yet on rules of origin. The EU is willing to consider a separate textile chapter.

- The EU does not envisage that TTIP will change current laws prohibiting hormone-treated beef or establishing the procedure for authorizing genetically modified organisms.

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