U.S. and EU Kick Off Fourth Round of Trade Negotiations
U.S. and EU trade officials on March 10 kicked off in Brussels the fourth round of negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. According to the European Commission and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, negotiators addressed a range of issues during the first day of talks including services, labor, rules of origin, intellectual property and regulatory sectors. Inside U.S. Trade indicates that the EC is expected to table two texts on competition and one text each on subsidies and antitrust during the current round, while the U.S. is expected to table texts on antitrust matters and institutional issues. In addition, both sides will reportedly table papers on customs issues and small- and medium-sized enterprises, while the EU is expected to present a paper on technical barriers to trade.
In tandem with the talks, the EU will host a series of stakeholder meetings on March 12 with the participation of business, labor, environmental and consumer groups. According to the EC, over 80 EU- and U.S.-based stakeholders will explain their views on different aspects of the talks by making presentations to negotiators and other interested stakeholders. The EU and U.S. chief negotiators will also debrief stakeholders on progress to date and outline the next steps in the process. Stakeholders will then be able to put questions directly to the chief negotiators and raise any issues of concern. Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East Dan Mullaney and EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio García Bercero are also scheduled to participate in a press conference at the closing of the talks on March 14.
Meanwhile, the Business Alliance for TTIP on March 10 urged negotiators “to be ambitious in their talks given the enormous economic benefits that are at stake.” The coalition of EU and U.S. business associations acknowledged the progress achieved to date and called on both sides to reach a comprehensive deal as soon as possible that creates the right environment to foster economic growth and job creation.
On the other hand, a group of non-governmental organizations issued a paper last week opposing the inclusion of investor-state dispute settlement provisions in an eventual TTIP deal because they believe U.S. companies investing in Europe could potentially use those provisions to seek compensation for future bans or other regulation on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking. The NGOs contend that TTIP could limit governments’ ability to regulate the development and expansion of fracking and, as a result, “dangerously thwart government efforts to address climate change and to protect citizens.” As previously reported, the EU announced Jan. 21 a pause in negotiations on the TTIP investment provisions to provide an opportunity for public input.