Brussels should stop pushing to include financial services in the trade and investment agreement under negotiations between the EU and the US, said Washington’s envoy Anthony L. Gardner in an exclusive interview with EURACTIV.
“We keep on getting asked about this and we keep on giving the same answer. Somehow, that does not seem to be sufficient, as the Commission keeps on pushing for this issue when they know what the answer is,” rebutted Gardner.
Asked whether the EU is paying the price for having insisted to keep the audiovisual sector off the table with the exclusion of financial services in the negotiations, the US envoy noted:
“I did not say that. I am saying each side has its sensitivities. We have our own. We have been clear regarding our view on financial services. Our energies would be better spent making progress in the areas which are on the table. “
Because of Washington’s strong reluctance to include regulatory cooperation on financial services in TTIP, the EU has pushed it off the table in May, hoping to add it back at a later stage.
Gardner said there will be a chapter on financial market access in TTIP, but there is already a financial markets regulatory dialogue between the two partners which has worked well and has delivered greater convergence on both sides. This is why “we don t see what would be achieved by having a formal mechanism about financial regulatory dialogue in a trade agreement.”
TTIP, the economic equivalent to NATO
The sixth round of the talks kicked off on Monday (14 July). The aim is to conclude negotiations by the end of 2015. According to the US envoy, negotiators are making steady progress in all of the working groups.
“We have consolidated texts in five areas. We may extend that number after this round,” he said, mentioning competition and services.
If successful, TTIP would cover more than 40% of global GDP and account for large shares of world trade and foreign direct investment. The EU-US trade relationship is already the biggest in the world. Traded goods and services are worth €2 billion.
Beyond growth and jobs, “we need this deal to help solidify further the transatlantic alliance, to provide an economic equivalent to NATO and to set the rules of world trade before others do it for us,” he said.
Responding to a question on Europe’s dependency on Russian gas and the Ukrainian crisis, Gardner said that “a free trade agreement with the US would render quasi automatic any request to export LNG from the US.”
Speak out to criticism
TTIP opponents are particularly concerned by additional investment protection agreements. They fear these will perpetuate consumer and environmental standards once they are established. If the EU or individual member states then conclude stricter standards, US companies could raise charges against them.
Gardner rebuffed criticism and said these have been the most open and transparent trade negotiations ever. “I think this particular criticism is not a valid one. Almost anything you want to know is out there for the public to see,” he added referring to both Commission and USTR websites.
“The best way to act on those criticisms is to speak out,” he added, conceding a new narrative and wider outreach is needed.
To combat perceptions and arguments based on mischaracterisation and value-based assessments, the ambassador said fact and scientific evidence had to be used.
“Enemies of this agreement are latching on to this issue (biotechnology and chlorinated chicken) as ways to miscast what this is about. We should be talking about why Europe ignores the scientific advice from its own agencies,” he said.
To read the full interview, please click here