A great choice of venue, the Miami sunshine played its part in the successful 11th round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations from October 19 – 23, 2015. It has been three long months since the US and EU TTIP negotiating teams last met. Now they gathered, suitably attired for the warm weather they would confront and the well-rehearsed and prepared negotiating program, including the obligatory Stakeholder Presentations (all about being inclusive) on October 21st and the Chief Negotiators Briefing (all about being open and transparent) at the closing on October 23rd.
The US team had a particular spring in their beach shoe steps, following the recent (Monday, October 5, 2015) successful conclusion of their Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), between the United States and 11 (Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and Japan) Pacific Rim nations, representing an annual gross domestic product (GDP) of nearly $28 trillion, that is 40% of global GDP and thumping 1/3rd of world trade. EU trade teams watch out, the US trade teams get this mega trade agreement stuff done!
The impressive American TPP accomplishment was the backdrop to the October 2015 TTIP round of negotiations. The TPP agreement, coming after 10 years of negotiation, is an important victory for President Obama’s administration trade agenda as well as the foreign-policy “pivot” towards the Pacific Rim; away from the Atlantic! Hey that’s us, in Europe. TPP is the most important US trade deal, since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the US and Mexico, signed way back in 1994 (remember that?) which created one of the world’s largest free trade zones and provided (arguably) the base for subsequent economic growth and prosperity. This was also the model for TPP; the Office of the US Trade Representative, currently headed by the tireless Ambassador Michael Froman, describes the agreement as one that “writes the rules for global trade—rules that will help increase Made-in-America exports, grow the American economy, support well-paying American jobs, and strengthen the American middle class”. The US mandate and objective for TTIP is clear. Back in September 2015, even as he was completing the TPP, Froman had time to meet with his EU counterpart Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in Washington, where both confirmed their respective Governments strong political will to deliver TTIP. Froman’s battle hardened negotiators desks and minds are now a lot clearer, and the order is “deliver TTIP”.
As her negotiation team arrived in Miami, Malmström was keen to ensure a level of positive spin, support and momentum for “Team EU”. Back in Bruges, Belgium on October the 19, she addressed a TTIP conference revealing Europe’s exciting new trade strategy, that is “Trade for All” . In case there was any misunderstanding across the Atlantic, she closed her speech stating “with this new strategy, Europe is engaging with the world, broadly and deeply. We are doing so in order to benefit as many people as possible… in an open transparent way to restore trust in trade… and in a way that is in tune with our values – values we share with many partners around the world, including the United States.” Malmström also made her view clear on TPP, “It is also good news for the trade negotiations between the US and the EU, because with TPP done we will be able to approach our TTIP negotiations with an even greater focus from both sides.”
The 11th TTIP round was then all set to achieve progress and move the two parties nearer to conclusion. It was understood that contentious issues that would impede progress, such as Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) were left off the agenda, for now. Thus in his Briefing EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero was able to declare that “substantial progress on market access for EU and US companies in all three areas meaning: tariffs, services and public procurement”. Many other singular achievements were cited, all providing those necessary, concrete steps to agreement. For those who want more detail, do know that the European Commission (EC), will publish an extensive 11th round progress report (transparency and openness is the order of the day) at the beginning of November 2015. We will, of course, report on this. Conclusion: concrete steps are being made, TTIP is moving closer to its own clear sunny skies.