U.S.-EU Trade Talks on Track after Three Negotiating Rounds
The third round of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership concluded Nov. 20 in Washington, D.C. Negotiators discussed a range of issues last week, including services, government procurement, energy and raw materials, sanitary and phytosanitary barriers, intellectual property rights, labor and trade issues, textiles, small- and medium-sized enterprises, regulatory coherence, and sectoral regulatory approaches. The two sides took a break from the discussions Dec. 18 to share information with and hear viewpoints from more than 350 stakeholders, ranging from environmental, consumer and other non-governmental organizations to labor unions, businesses and academia. Negotiators participated in a three-hour session that included more than 50 policy presentations covering such issues as consumer and food safety, innovation and agriculture.
U.S. Chief Negotiator Dan Mullaney indicated that the negotiating groups “fleshed out” the earlier proposals and discussed new text and other proposals. Several groups continued their discussions on the architecture of the agreement, while the talks on regulatory coherence focused on ways to facilitate the development of regulations on both sides of the Atlantic in order to achieve mutually agreeable regulatory objectives while minimizing or eliminating the costs and barriers to trade and investment caused by unnecessary divergences in these regulations. Mullaney observed that the two sides have begun discussing tariff elimination and anticipated further talks to take place in the fourth round after tariff offers are exchanged early next year. He expects the U.S. and the EU to take stock at the political level early next year of the progress achieved to date. At that time the two sides will plan appropriate actions to move the negotiations forward in 2014.
EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio García Bercero was satisfied with the progress achieved during the third round and highlighted that the two sides “remain on track to deliver an ambitious trade and investment agreement.” García Bercero stressed that the TTIP “will not be about lowering or compromising the highest standards of consumer, environment, privacy, health, or other legitimate protections, and each side will obviously maintain its regulatory autonomy.” A European Commission press release added that the EU is seeking to slash import duties, allow companies from either side to bid for government procurement contracts, and open up services markets and make it easier to invest. The press release noted that EU negotiators expect to start working with their U.S. counterparts by March 2014 on the wording of provisions designed to make it easier to comply with each other’s existing rules and allow regulators to work together more closely in the future when drafting new rules.