U.S., EU Advance TTIP Negotiations With New and Revised Offers
The U.S. and the European Union made good on earlier pledges to accelerate talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership during the most recent round of negotiations late last month in Miami. The TTIP talks had lagged as the U.S. focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but that agreement was concluded in early October. U.S. chief negotiator Dan Mullaney said the U.S. wants to achieve a “similarly high quality agreement” with the EU and is working to finish negotiations before the end of President Obama’s presidency in January 2017.
Both the U.S. and the EU submitted a second round of market access offers that identified a larger number of products for which they are prepared to fully eliminate tariffs. EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero said both sides are “now on a comparable level in terms of tariff line coverage,” which press reports put at 97 percent. The ultimate goal is to achieve “complete tariff elimination on products traded across the Atlantic,” Mullaney stated, “with tariffs on the overwhelming majority of goods being eliminated immediately upon entering the force of the agreement.” Negotiators had productive discussions on the revised offers during the most recent talks, he noted, and that work will continue through the next round.
Mullaney pointed out that the U.S. has now introduced proposals, and in most cases proposed specific text, in nearly every T-TIP negotiating area. Before or during the most recent negotiations the U.S. put forth proposals on technical barriers to trade, customs and trade facilitations, rules of origin, competition policy, agricultural market access, and small and medium-sized businesses. The U.S. also tabled proposals for the institutional framework of the agreement, which Mullaney said “will be essential to ensuring this agreement continues to work for our economies long after it enters into force.” There were continuing talks on revised services offers that were presented in July, and Garcia said initial offers on government procurement are slated to be exchanged next February. He added that the EU has tabled a proposal on sustainable development, including labor and environment.
Regulatory coherence and cooperation has been a thorny topic, though both sides continue to believe it is important. Garcia said the two sides “have a chance to create a strong partnership on regulatory cooperation” and to “learn from each other in order to use scarce public resources as efficiently as possible and improve the protection for our citizens.” He emphasized that this partnership should be based on two principles: cooperation is only possible if the level of protection for citizens stays the same or improves, and any form of regulatory cooperation will not change the way the EU regulates on public policies such as food safety or data privacy. He noted that the most recent regulatory discussions were “particularly constructive and intensive” on how to achieve greater regulatory compatibility in nine sectors, such as textiles, information technology, cars, pharmaceuticals and machine engineering.
If an agreement is to be concluded by the end of 2016, Mullaney noted, the next four months will be critical. The two sides have therefore agreed to increase the frequency of intersessional work ahead of the next formal round, which is expected to take place soon after the start of the year. U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman and EU Trade Commission Cecilia Malmstrom have also been meeting regularly between rounds to provide direction and this “intensive, high-level engagement” is expected to continue.