U.S. Chided for Slow Progress on Transatlantic Trade Pact
Any hope for the successful forging of a comprehensive transatlantic free trade agreement will be dashed unless the U.S. commits to increasing the pace of its negotiations with the European Union, according to a senior level European lawmaker.
“There’s no speed in the negotiation,” according to Bernd Lange, chairman of the European Parliament’s international trade committee.
Deemed a “priority issue” on both sides of the Atlantic, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, would expand the world’s biggest economic relationship by eliminating tariffs on goods, enlarging services markets, opening public procurement and bolstering regulatory cooperation.
Any negotiated deal would need the support in Europe of the EU Parliament and the bloc’s national governments.
Referring to the progress achieved during two-and-a-half years of negotiations, Lange said, “All the problematic, sensitive items – public procurement, GIs [geographical indications for agricultural products], labor rights, services and even the mutual recognition of standards – are not solved.”
In December, the European Commission – the EU’s executive arm – and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative pledged to intensify work on the TTIP in 2016 “to help negotiations move forward rapidly.”
“I can’t really imagine, if there’s not really a speeding-up process and a willingness by the U.S. partners, that there will be an end result under the Obama administration,” said Lange.
The start of the present round of talks in Brussels was delayed last week after a blockade by environmental activists, who warned against a “dead end trade deal” and called for an end to the TTIP negotiations.
EU and US negotiators are discussing plans to establish a quasi-court under the future Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement and decided to continue negotiating over the next two weeks.
The court would allow corporations to sue governments over any environmental, health or labor safeguards that stand in the way of their investments. Under a similar system, a Canadian energy company recently demanded $15 billion in compensation after U.S. President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone oil pipeline.
The next rounds of talks will reportedly take place in April and July.
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