The Brief: Little to show after three years of TTIP talks

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


There is a major demonstration against the EU’s proposed trade deals with the US and Canada in Brussels today. Expect the EU quarter to grind to a halt right about now.

Forget for a moment the rights and wrongs of free trade agreements such as TTIP and CETA. Ignore France and Germany’s flip-flopping on the issue.

Focus instead on the progress that has been made on TTIP.

The European Commission was handed a negotiating mandate by member states, but what have they managed to do with it?

The Commission today admitted that not a single chapter of the deal has been closed.

Not a single chapter after the first round of negotiations finished in July 2013, three years ago.

No one is saying that striking a deal on behalf of 28 (for now) member states is easy. But the one thing the EU does not have is time.

Neither Clinton or Trump can be expected to be as welcoming to TTIP as Obama, whose administration is deeply frustrated with the lack of progress made with the deal.

Europe has suffered eight years of stagnant growth. The Commission says that TTIP could increase the size of the EU economy by €120 billion. So why no progress?

This afternoon, the Commission refused to admit missing the end of the year deadline was a failure.

But what exactly have they been doing with their mandate?

This Brief is powered by Burson-Marsteller.

Juncker was in Switzerland – the world’s capital of neutrality – talking about Churchill and Brexit yesterday. We are not at war with the Brits, he said, and we are not looking for revenge. He also found the time to postpone a controversial export control bill on surveillance technology.

Meanwhile the Russians have plans to buy Bulgaria – all of it. Presumably the purchase will include the Soviet nuclear reactors in the country, which EU auditors have said, are very, very hard to decommission.

Austria’s tortured relationship with its presidential elections has taken yet another twist. Be warned, Europe’s envelope makers are furious at being blamed for some votes being declared invalid.

Politics is every bit as unforgiving as a spurned envelope maker. Merkel has apologised for doing the moral thing during the migration crisis. Sarkozy, on the other hand, is in no danger of doing the right thing…

The OECD thinks it is all about PR, but you can’t dress up the fact that it looks likely that more migrants will die trying to cross the Mediterranean than last year.

More and more countries are using development aid cash to care for refugees on their territory, but tensions in a refugee camp in Lesbos have reached boiling point.

Speaking of migration, Turkey is enjoying a boom in one of the few growth industries around these days – people smuggling.

A British lawyer has been handed a three-year jail sentence for exposing Thai labour abuses of migrant workers.

Some sicko is decapitating European bison, and Poland and the Commission are butting heads over a new tax on foreign supermarkets. Poland has now suspended the tax.

The College of Commissioners is meeting tomorrow. Andrus Ansip will present a review of telecoms and copyright rules, part of the Digital Single Market package.



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