ALL-PARTY PARLIAMENTARY GROUP ON EU-US TRADE & INVESTMENT
5-6 MARCH 2014
THE STATE OF PLAY OF THE TTIP NEGOTIATIONS
- Broad agreement that the negotiations had hit a difficult phase where substantive differences needed to be tackled.
- The exchange of tariff offers had led to disappointment on the EU-side. The US offer was not seen as comparable to the EU offer. Speculation on whether the offer was tactically motivated.
- The political context in the US with mid-term elections and in the EU with elections to the European Parliament and the appointment of a new Commission would limit progress on politically difficult issues until later 2014/early 2015, but important technical progress could still be made in the coming months.
- A Trade Promotion Authority for the US Administration would probably not be agreed before after the mid-term elections but seen as very important to EU.
- Comparatively little specific focus on SMEs apart from the general benefits that trade facilitation and regulatory coherence would bring.
- The Summit with President Obama on the 26th of March was hoped to infuse the negotiations with additional political steerage and pressure to maintain momentum.
- All in all the negotiations had moved at a quick and good pace compared to other FTA negotiations, but were still seen by some to be months behind the original schedule. The goal remains completion of a deal by early to mid 2015, although the recent stock-taking by Commissioner DeGucht and Froman had not provided the political direction expected/needed.
- Three negotiating rounds will take place before the summer.
MAIN CHALLENGES IN THE NEGOTIATIONS
- Difficulties have emerged in the regulatory chapters: US more focused on the horizontal and process issues, while the EU is adamant that tangible cost savings need to be achieved in the individual sectors that have been identified. A “critical mass” of concrete regulatory savings need to be achieved. Joint business studies demonstrating how sectoral achievements could be reached will not be finished before mid 2014.
- The US is pushing for improvements in the EU regulatory procedures in the form of greater degree of transparency and consultations before regulations are decided which are challenging the EU method of establishing regulations. A need to find a balance between what is agreed in the negotiations and what will be subject to future discussions under a “living agreement”.
- Agreeing on services and public procurement remain the areas expected to pose the greatest challenges to negotiators and public procurement is a critical issue, described as ‘red-line’ for some in EP.
- Achieving results that include commitments by US states remains difficult.
THE PUBLIC DEBATE ON TTIP
- Broad agreement that the European Commission has been innovative and constructive in providing transparency both vis a vis the European Parliament and stakeholders and the general public.
- The launch of the stakeholder advisory group was applauded, but too early in the process to make a judgment on to what extent the experts would be providing real guidance and advice to negotiators.
- The TTIP is subject to more public debate than any previous trade negotiation. The Commission is losing the public debate according to some. The business community was seen as fairly poor in answering critics of the negotiations and in focusing the public debate on the benefits.
- Member States are not sufficiently active in the public debate. There is a limit to the EC’s ability to interact in debates in all 28 member states.
- ISDS and the right to regulate remain the main issue of public debate, particularly strong in Germany. Hope that the documentation to be provided during the consultation on isds would allay concerns. Rising worry about risk that the ISDS debate would undermine political support for the negotiations.
- EC assurances that TTIP will not lead to a lowering of standards of health, safety and the environment are not being fully taken on board.
- Important to remind the public of the geo-strategic importance of the agreement and the potential of the agreement to set gold standards globally for trade, in addition to the sizable potential gains economically.
- Important to be able to point to specific jobs and consumer gains, as well as local area data about potential impact.
THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
- The Trade Committee of the European Parliament (INTA) is actively engaged in consultations on the negotiations. The broad coalition between the EPP, Social Democrats and the ECR enable the INTA Committee to maintain a strong voice on trade. Unclear to what implications a new composition of EP will have.
- INTA has access to Commission documents but not US documents.
- INTA wishes to engage with Member State parliaments for example in the form of APPGs or cross-party groups.
HOW CAN SUPPORT FOR TTIP BE MAINTAINED?
- Member State governments need to engage in the public debate.
- Business and industry, where possible in alignment with workers, need to become more vocal on the benefits.
- Building a US constituency in support of the negotiations will be important. Can the UK assist in this?
- Demonstrating the benefits for SMEs – in specific, tangible terms – is important.
- Demonstrating direct benefits to consumers is important.
- Demonstrating local area jobs and business benefits is important.