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11/12/2016

US doubtful that CETA momentum will speed up TTIP talks

Trade & Society

US doubtful that CETA momentum will speed up TTIP talks

Jean-Claude Juncker (C) and his EU colleagues will be riding high after finally managing to get CETA finalised. Sigmar Gabriel (R) thinks a Clinton presidency will be to TTIP's advantage.

[European Commission]

With CETA finally taken care of, there is renewed confidence in Germany that the EU’s TTIP talks will be reinvigorated. Across the Atlantic though, doubts remain. EurActiv’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

After the EU managed to conclude its trade deal with Canada yesterday (30 October), TTIP’s supporters have been instilled with fresh conference that those negotiations will be given fresh impetus.

German Economic Affairs Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) told FAZ that a victory for Hillary Clinton on 8 November would be a good sign for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. “With Mrs Clinton, there would be a chance of renewing cooperation with Europe,” Gabriel insisted. “It would be useful in regard to trade agreements,” he added.

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At the end of August, Gabriel said that TTIP has “de facto failed” and is politically dead. The unwillingness of the US to compromise on issues such as arbitration has been a serious sticking point.

Outgoing US President Barack Obama has even reiterated his hopes that TTIP can be concluded before he leaves office in January. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told Der Tagesspiegel that Obama “does not share the view that TTIP has failed”, when asked about the president’s upcoming visit to Germany in mid-November.

“He has tasked the negotiation team with the ambitious goal of concluding talks before the end of the year,” Earnest added. “That deadline hasn’t expired yet.”

But behind closed doors, Washington insiders are much less confident that this is a realistic goal. Firstly, the bumpy road leading up to the signing of CETA, which was very nearly derailed by the Belgian region of Wallonia’s refusal to agree to the deal, has severely tarnished the EU’s reputation as a negotiating partner.

CETA: Controversy over EU pressure on Wallonia

Criticised by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during the signature of CETA, the president of Walloon party CDH, Benoît Lutgen, has repeated that there had been insinuations about negative consequences for the region if it continued to veto the trade treaty with Canada.

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If regional partners and protesters in the street can have such a significant impact on trade deals, despite the EU having the sole competence to negotiate them, doubts have increased about whether Brussels can actually be an effective negotiator.

Secondly, the ongoing presidential campaign stateside has poisoned the atmosphere for new free trade deals in the US. Republican nominee Donald Trump and former-Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders have both spoken out against free trade, forcing Clinton’s hand on the issue.

However, this mostly applies to the controversial TTP deal that the US has with several of its Asian Pacific neighbours, still awaiting ratification by congress; TTIP has been largely absence from the campaign. But Clinton will be hard-pressed to promote free trade if she is elected, given the way she has handled the run up to the election.

Mexican minister: Trade talks with EU will be less controversial than TTIP

Mexico’s Economy Minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, visited Brussels on Monday (30 May) to launch a process to upgrade the 16-year-old EU-Mexico trade agreement. In an interview with EurActiv.com, the Mexican economist eyes 2018 as the year to conclude an “ambitious” deal.

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Finally, Washington sources have cited the massive anti-TTIP protest movements that are now commonplace, especially in Germany. As a result, a quick conclusion to the negotiations is thought to be incredibly unlikely, while a stripped-down “TTIP-lite” or an initial limit on regulatory cooperation look to be more plausible in the long run.