Have EU-U.S. Trade Talks Failed?
The rhetoric flying among European negotiators of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) sounded like a United States presidential candidate trying to get on both sides of an issue.
The German economics minister said TTIP talks between the European Union and the U.S. have failed, the Associated Press reported over the weekend. Sigmar Gabriel, who is also Germany’s vice chancellor, said the two sides had made no progress on any of the major outstanding issues of the talks.
According to Gabriel the two sides haven’t agreed on a single item out of the 27 chapters being discussed in 14 rounds of talks.
But the EU’s lead TTIP negotiator and the spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel contradicted Gabriel’s assertions.
EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero was quoted by the AP as cryptically referencing a famous Mark Twain saying. That aforism was assumed to be that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated.”
Merkel’s spokesman said that Europe and the United States still disagree over certain parts of the deal, but that the talks were not over yet. Steffen Seibert told the AP that it is “right to continue negotiating,” and that breakthroughs often come in the final round.
The TTIP has been under discussion for three years, and would encompass not only trade but also investments and the harmonization of regulations. In the interim criticism of the deal has grown in both Europe and the United States.
Drafts of TTIP chapters have been leaked to the press and have caused an uproar in some circles. The agreement has been criticized for lax health and safety standards, for empowering corporations on issues of regulations and investments, for weak environmental protections, and for concerns over losing jobs.
Gabriel insisted that TTIP would fail unless the U.S. made additional concessions. He cited the recently concluded EU-Canada trade deal as being fairer to both sides.
If TTIP does go down the tubes it would be a significant blow to Merkel and President Barack Obama, both of whom have worked jointly to promote the accord.
Obama had hoped that TTIP would complement its Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TTP) agreement with Pacific Rim countries, which was signed earlier this year and is pending before Congress with diminishing hopes of ratification.