Malmström pushes TTIP in Paris

Cecilia Malmström advocated the benefits of TTIP in Paris this Monday. [Baltic Development Forum/Flickr]

The new European Commissioner for Trade defended the transatlantic trade negotiations in Paris this week, emphasising the benefits an agreement could bring to French exports and economic growth. EURACTIV France reports

For Cecilia Malmström, the European Commissioner for Trade, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) represents an opportunity to create more jobs, investment and economic growth that will benefit European citizens.

According to the Commission, the treaty would also help to strengthen ties with the United States by cutting red tape and implementing common standards. In a speech to students at Dauphine University in Paris, she hailed TTIP as a “most ambitious agreement,” which “covers everything”.

If the Swedish Commissioner cannot give an exact date for the completion of the agreement, she believes the American timetable could be taken as a reference.

TTIP is one of Barak Obama’s priorities for the end of his presidency, and Cecilia Malmström has been assured by Republican members of the United States Congress that they do not intend to oppose the President over the matter.

A ‘bare bones’ agreement by the end of 2015

“The negotiations will not be concluded in 2015, but I believe we can make considerable progress towards the bare bones of an agreement by the end of 2015. Will we manage to finish before the end of President Obama’s mandate? It’s too early to say,” Cecilia Malmström said during the debate in Paris.

The negotiations have been subject to a great deal of criticism in France, where many regard them as too favourable to the United States and lacking in transparency, but the Commissioner focused on the economic advantages the trade agreement would bring for both the European Union and France. She told radio station Europe 1 on 15 December that “France is a country with great potential. It is strong in many domains and has great opportunities to expand in agricultural products, rail transport, engineering, pharmaceuticals.”

>> Read: EU Ombudsman demands more TTIP transparency

Malmström also specified that in France “one person in ten owes their job to exports to the rest of the world,” and that they tended to earn “more than the average”. She added that “90% of the increased demand over the next twenty years” will come from “the rest of the world, and not from the European market,” which already receives a large proportion of French exports.

In an attempt to dispel French fears over TTIP, the Commissioner said that “the jobs of the future will be linked to trade,” and that shrewd use of economic policy could create “opportunities in France’s strong sectors”.

“French businesses will benefit from our efforts to bring the standards of our trading partners into line with our own,” she said, adding that the agricultural sector would avoid any major upheaval. Perhaps most notably, the Commission has agreed to protect the geographical indications on French food products.

>> Read: Nothing wrong with chlorine-washed chicken, say German backers of TTIP

Arbitration still a major worry for Paris

The Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism remains one of the main causes for concern in Paris. This mechanism, known as ISDS, is designed to protect companies’ foreign investments against arbitrary or illegal rulings by their host countries.

The Commissioner said that she will continue to work on TTIP, in accordance to the mandate she was unanimously given by the 28 member states. “We must not forget that thousands of similar agreements already exist all over the world. France has almost a hundred, so they will not just disappear. We will begin by trying to carry out considerable reforms to make them more open, more legitimate, more limited if possible. If it is not possible, we will have to see”.

The French Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl, recently told the French Senate that “France did not ask for these arbitration tribunals to be included in the negotiation mandate. We have to preserve the right of the state to set and apply their own standards, to maintain the impartiality of the justice system and to allow the people of France, and the world, to assert their values.”

>> Read: French government will not sign TTIP agreement in 2015

In June 2013, the European Union's heads of state and heads of government gave the Commission the responsibility for the free-trade negotiations between the EU and the United States.

The European Commission is seeking agreement on a number of issues, including the protection of investments and the proposed mechanism of dispute settlement between investors and states.

Negotiations between the US and the EU on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) began in July 2013.

January 2015: publication of the public consultation on TTIP

February 2015: next round of negotiations

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