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24/08/2016

Latvia: EU, US ‘likely’ to miss year-end target for free trade deal

Trade & Society

Latvia: EU, US ‘likely’ to miss year-end target for free trade deal

Anti-TTIP protest. London, October 2014.

[Garry Knight/Flickr]

The EU and United States will likely miss a year-end target to seal the world’s biggest-ever free trade deal, current European president Latvia said Wednesday (25 March).

“During our (EU) presidency and during the next presidency of Luxembourg, most likely these negotiations will not be concluded,” Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics told reporters in the capital Riga, referring to talks on the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

Latvia’s six-month stint as EU president ends when Luxembourg takes over for half a year on July 1.

Just last week EU leaders reiterated their committment to conclude the deal by the year’s end.

>>Read: Brussels makes overture on ‘data flow’ agreement in TTIP

“We have been discussing the overall strategy how to achieve the agreement but we cannot exclude that it my take longer,” Rinkevics said.

“The political will is there but in order to tango you need two.”

>>Read: Paris caught meddling in TTIP arbitration debate

Speaking along side Rinkevics, EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström insisted “you cannot put a date” on the conclusion of the talks but said both sides wanted to conclude talks “under the Obama administration”, or before January 2017.

The United States and EU agreed last month to work “full throttle” to secure the mammoth deal despite growing scepticism on both sides of the Atlantic.

>>Read: Syriza-led Greek parliament ‘will never ratify TTIP’

It would not just slash the already low trade tariffs they share, but would also harmonise regulations to an unprecedented degree, affecting goods and services as far-ranging as Roquefort cheese and accounting.

But social activists oppose many aspects.

The most contentious part of the deal includes a clause which allows corporations to sue governments in tribunals that are above national law.

Background

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: 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, with €2 billion of goods and services exchanged every day.