Technical Work Highlights Latest U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement Talks
The United States and the European Union concluded their sixth round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership July 18 with little indication of any substantial progress.
A statement from chief EU TTIP negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero said last week’s negotiations featured “intense discussions in most of the areas we intend to cover in this agreement” and that the work “has again been highly technical” as negotiators work to “prepare the ground for the political decisions that would need to be taken at a later stage.” He gave no report on efforts to lower tariffs, likely because the EU is awaiting a second U.S. offer after deeming the initial one insufficient. Garcia did point out that nearly 150,000 comments have been submitted in response to the EU’s recently concluded public consultation on the controversial topic of investor-state dispute settlement, an issue on which TTIP negotiations have been suspended since January, and that it could take until November for the EU to issue a report on its findings. He added that negotiators are finalizing consolidated texts in areas such as small and medium-sized enterprises and trade facilitation and that textual proposals in other areas such as sanitary and phytosanitary standards are expected before the next round, which could be held in September in the Washington, D.C., area.
Garcia said “a lot of the time has been devoted to the regulatory agenda,” including “what can concretely be achieved” in nine specific sectors (e.g., pharmaceuticals, cars, chemicals and engineering). He added that the EU expects that over the next few months a clear understanding will be reached on “what are the concrete objectives we want to achieve in TTIP and what are the steps that the regulators on both sides will need to take to fulfill these objectives within the time frame of the TTIP negotiations.” He also reiterated that nothing will be done that could lower or endanger the protection of any public policy goals pursued by EU or U.S. regulators, that enhanced regulatory cooperation is essential if the EU and the U.S. wish to play a leading role in the development of international regulations and standards based on the highest levels of protection, and that TTIP should deliver concrete results in terms of enhanced regulatory compatibility in sectors.
U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman said little about the outcome of the sixth round, noting only that negotiators “worked productively … to identify paths forward.”