After three years of negotiations, a conclusion of the negotiations on TTIP is not in sight. The lead negotiators of the EU and United States have now publicly acknowledged that it will not be feasible to conclude the negotiations by the end of the year, which means they will not be concluded under President Barack Obama’s administration. According to the EU’s chief negotiator for TTIP, Ingacio García Bercero, all three core pillars of the agreement – market access, regulatory cooperation and rules – have seen substantial progress since the start of discussions in 2013. However, difficult questions, for example regarding investment protection and public procurement, remain unresolved. In New York, good progress was made in the area of regulatory cooperation. The parties agreed to continue working together in the weeks following the negotiation round. However, the U.S. elections on November 8 cause uncertainties. It could take at least six months until a new U.S. Trade Representative is nominated by the new President and confirmed by the Senate.
Details from the fifteenth round of negotiations
- Horizontal regulatory cooperation: The chief negotiators discussed the institutional framework for regulatory cooperation. Regarding the chapter on technical barriers to trade (TBT), one issue that was talked about was how product certifications of the exporting country could be recognized by the importing country. Discussions continued regarding the demands by the European Union that the United States improves its system for third party conformity assessment. This is especially relevant to the electronics industry. With regard to technical standards, it was discussed how the cooperation between responsible agencies in the United States and the EU could be improved.
- Energy and raw materials: So far, there is no chapter proposal by the United States on trade in energy and raw materials. Without such a proposal, the goal of reaching consolidated texts as long as the current administration is still in office is unfeasible. It further remains uncertain whether or not there will be a chapter regarding trade in energy and raw materials in TTIP. One alternative could be to integrate individual aspects in other chapters.
- Sustainability: Intensive discussion were held during the negotiation round regarding the chapter on labor and environmental standards. Progress was made on harmonizing the proposals of the parties. With regard to labor standards, for example, the proposal by the EU to include thematic sections on the ILO core labor standards in the chapter was discussed. Issues within the sub-chapter on environmental aspects include the sustainable treatment of fish stocks and the protection of forests and wildlife. Furthermore, institutional questions regarding were addressed, such as the settlement of disputes.
- Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): The negotiations on this matter have progressed and now take place on the basis of a joint text. The United States and European Union have already agreed on a preamble as well as paragraphs regarding cooperation, the exchange of information and the institutional structure. Those areas that overlap with other TTIP chapters remain open.
The summary of the fifteenth negotiating round by the European Commission can be accessed here.
The statement by European leader of negotiations, Ignacio García Bercero, on the fifteenth negotiation round can be found here.