The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), officially launched in June 2013, is often presented as an EU/US attempt to re-energise the multilateral trading system after the failure of the Doha negotiations. Or as the Trade Commissioner of the time, Karel De Gucht said: the “cheapest stimulus package that can be imagined”1 in the aftermath of the devastating financial crisis of 2008.
The 14th round of TTIP negotiations took place in Brussels between the 11th–15th July 2016.2 EU Chief negotiator, Ignacio Garcia Bercero (Directorate General for Trade) confirmed that the European Commission had tabled a proposal on chemicals for discussion. Whilst the European Commission is confident the chemicals proposal does not overstep its negotiating mandate, numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been critical of the European Commission’s approach.
A coalition of Brussels-based NGOs (CIEL, Client Earth, and HEAL) has prepared a preliminary analysis looking at whether the current TTIP negotiations, focussing on chemicals, are compliant with the European Parliament (EP) Resolution (July 2015) that contain the Parliament`s recommendation to the Commission on negotiating TTIP.3 4
The analysis concludes the EU Commission “failed to follow the EU Parliament’s recommendations”, as the Commission is negotiating in areas where the EU and the U.S. have very different rules - which the EP asked them not to do. Also, the analysis mentions that TTIP, through regulatory cooperation, does affect standards that have yet to be set, in areas such as endocrine-disrupting chemicals and “the adaptation of REACH to the specificities of nanomaterials”. This means that some EU chemical policies are indeed influenced by the ongoing TTIP negotiations.
The slow progress on EDCs, and the stalling on nanomaterials could be seen as a fall-out of TTIP, but there is more. The analysis is also critical of the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS), which even in its European Commission version, the Investment Court System (ICS), fails to ensure that public interest policy objectives are not undermined by private interests.
It’s hard to predict what progress will be made in the coming months, but many commentators feel the window of opportunity to conclude TTIP is closing quickly. They refer to the fact that national elections will be held this year and in U.S., France, and Germany next year; the campaigns will play out in an increasingly hostile environment to international agreements (the recent Brexit has also thrown a spanner in the works).
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States has featured 14 rounds since it was launched. The primary goal of TTIP is to remove barriers thus allowing a greater exchange between the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU) and enabling mutual access to domestic markets for the trading of goods and services. TTIP would also allow for facilitating investments, and the application and admission of public-sector contracts. At present, the negotiations deal with the following areas:
- Market access (with questions of tariffs, trade of services, issues of public procurement)
- Regulations (with challenges of compatibility and technical barriers (TBTs), and also sanitary and phytosanitary issues (SPS))
- Rules (with attention to commitment to sustainable development, labour, energy, raw materials, customs etc.)
- Karel De Gucht European Commissioner for Trade Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: Opening free trade negotiations with the United States Committee on Committee on International Trade (INTA) of the European Parliament/Brussels 21 February 2013
- Trade Negotiations step by step