US and European Union trade officials said yesterday (28 April) they would not settle for a limited trans-Atlantic free trade deal that ignores deep divisions on agricultural products, services, public procurement and dispute resolution.
In separate briefings during the latest negotiating round in New York, the US and EU officials said they would push for a comprehensive Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, before US President Barack Obama leaves office in January.
“We are not going to shoot for or accept a ‘TTIP light,’ a US Trade Representative official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
“It has to be comprehensive, it has to be ambitious and we do think we have the time that we need this year to complete such an ambitious deal,” the official added.
But the US officials and their European counterparts said bridging gaps would take a lot of work and that progress this week had centered mainly on non-controversial technical language. They are trying to lay the groundwork to have all but the thorniest problems solved by the autumn.
Among the deepest divides concern Europe’s food safety rules that exclude American beef raised with hormones, genetically modified foods and Europe’s many local food naming rules, such as for asiago and feta cheeses.
US negotiators have complained those rules have fueled a $12 billion annual food trade deficit with the EU, $1 billion in cheese alone.
Teamsters union legislative representative Michael Dolan told a forum for industry, labor and other trade stakeholders on Tuesday (26 April) that he believed the two sides were too entrenched on some key issues and that those should be excluded. He recommended leaving out the food safety standards and naming rules, known as “geographical indications.”
Similarly, he said a deal should exclude European demands for greater access to US federal, state and local government procurement, which often carries “buy American” or local content
“Agree to disagree on government procurement,” Dolan said. “Geographic indications? Not on the menu.”
An EU official told reporters that European negotiators were disappointed in the latest US procurement offer but were determined to keep working toward a deal.
As EU-US negotiators prepare for a new round of transatlantic trade talks in New York next week, officials fear TTIP might run into a new brick wall: Public procurement.
“We are obviously working hard to see where we can try to conclude these negotiations before the change of administration, without in any way compromising the substance of this agreement,” the official said. “We don’t believe in a ‘TTIP light.'”
Negotiations between the United States and the European Union on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership began in July 2013.
The guidelines stated that the EU should seek to include provisions on investment protection and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the proposed agreement.
>>Read our Special report: TTIP and the Arbitration Clause
If the treaty is signed, it will affect almost 40% of world GDP. The transatlantic market is already the most important in the world.
The deal could save companies millions of euros and create thousands of new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. The average European household could save €545 per year and European GDP could increase by nearly 0.5%.