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TTIP Negotiations Continue Amid Leaked Documents

Thursday, May 05, 2016
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The United States and the European Union recently completed the 13th round of negotiations toward the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but the talks were overshadowed by a leak of nearly 250 pages of negotiating texts that has further raised the ire of an already growing opposition.

EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero and U.S. chief negotiator Dan Mullaney said the two sides made progress in a number of areas at last week’s talks in New York. Negotiations on small and medium-sized enterprises, customs and trade facilitation, and competition are at “a very advanced stage of negotiation” and in some cases “there are only a few issues left to resolve.” There was “solid progress” on developing provisions on good regulatory practices, “fruitful discussions” on developing the framework for regulatory cooperation across sectors, and “progress” on developing regulatory provisions for specific product sectors such as automobiles, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics. There were “good talks” on improving existing tariff reduction offers (e.g., by increasing the number of tariffs eliminated immediately upon the agreement’s entry into force), with additional discussions anticipated in the months ahead. There was “some progress” on services, including “a good discussion” on mutual recognition agreements for professional services and “significant progress” in the consolidation of the text. There were also “extensive discussions” on public procurement, but Garcia noted that “we need to reach a similar level of progress in access to procurement markets as in tariffs and services in order to move the negotiations to the end game.” He added that at the next round, which will most likely be held in July, the two sides will aim to continue the work of consolidation in all areas so that there are only “a very limited number of open issues … that will ultimately be resolved at political level.”

Both sides have expressed hope that the negotiations can be concluded by the end of this year and to that end downplayed the document leak. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström emphasized that the leaked texts “reflect each side's negotiating position” and do not represent final outcomes. She seemed to acknowledge that the U.S. has made substantial demands in some areas but indicated that there should be no assumption that the EU will give in to those demands or even meet the U.S. halfway. “In areas where we are too far apart,” Malmström said, “we simply will not agree.” She reiterated that “no EU trade agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment” and asserted that “any EU trade deal can only change regulation by making it stronger.”

A spokesman for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative added that the interpretations being given to the leaked texts by opponents “appear to be misleading at best and flat out wrong at worst.” The spokesman said the U.S. negotiating objectives are based on input from a wide range of stakeholders, not only specific groups, and that TTIP “will preserve, not undermine, our strong consumer, health, [and] environmental standards.”

At the same time, the very insistence that the TTIP will uphold public interests on both sides, which can be very different, suggests that it could be difficult to find sufficient common ground to finalize an agreement within the next eight months. The leaked texts illustrate that “the contradictions between the official positions of both sides are far greater than the European Commission has ever publicly acknowledged,” said Reinhard Bütikofer, co-chair of the European Green Party. Garcia and Mullaney did not explicitly concur but did caution that they have “much more to do” to achieve the high-standard agreement that both sides are insisting on.

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