TTIP still on agenda but not concluded this year - EU Commission
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement is still very much on the European agenda, according to EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström.
Speaking to media after the council of European trade ministers in Bratislava on Friday 23 September, Malmström said that although it is looking "increasingly unlikely" that Europe and the US will finish the negotiations before the end of US President Barack Obama’s tenure in January 2017, it makes sense to continue the negotiations.
"It is looking increasingly unlikely that we will finish this before the end of Obama’s presidency. However, it makes sense to continue the negotiations," she said.
"There is a round of talks planned for the beginning of October in New York and we will try to make as much progress there as possible."
Her words come despite the fact that the TTIP agreement negotiations have come under increasing pressure in recent weeks. The German vice chancellor told media last month that negotiations have failed, while French trade minister Matthias Fekl has said his country would formally withdraw its support for the proposed trade deal between the EU and the US.
It makes all the sense in the world to have an agreement with the US
Moreover, it has been widely reported that Austria supports ending the current round of trade talks between the two countries, and starting fresh talks under a new name.
And hundreds of protesters against TTIP and CETA, the proposed trade agreement between Canada and Europe, gathered in Bratislava on Friday morning to signal their opposition to both sets of negotiations.
However, at the press conference following the trade ministers' meeting, the Commissioner insisted that "it makes all the sense in the world" to have an agreement with the US.
"It is good for our respective economies and for strengthening the partnership between both continents," she said. Acknowledging the protests outside, Malmström added that in the vast majority of the countries there is a "robust debate on TTIP", rather than active protests.
"We want to have a good agreement with the US that respects the red line issues and our offensive interests. That is why we will take our time with these negotiations. Substance is more important than speed."
The US and the EU have been negotiating TTIP since July 2014 and so far have concluded 14 rounds of talks. Despite all these talks, the two sides have so far failed to reach an agreement, with agriculture being one of the sticking points.
Both the EU Commissioner and Peter Žiga, Minister of the Economy of the Slovak Republic, were more optimistic about the trade agreement between the EU and Canada, Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). They hope that, all things going well, the agreement will be signed on 27 October at the EU-Canada summit.
Before that, however, the two continents need to prepare a joint declaration that will explain the sensitive issues such as public services, investment protection, court systems and environmental standards. The Commission hopes to give this declaration legal value and make it part of the agreement so that it can be signed on 27 October. It then has be approved by the European Parliament before being provisionally applied. Then the process of each European member state lending individual support to the agreement will begin.
Agriculture in CETA
The deal with Canada is considered tolerable from a meat industry perspective with access granted to Canada for 50,000t of beef which is about a tenth of Irish total exports. The upside for the EU is that there are possibilities for EU sales to Canada in return of lower value cuts and shipments have already taken place.
The EU’s credibility as a negotiating partner is at stake with CETA
On the dairy side, Canada will have duty free access into the EU dairy market. For the EU there will be a high value cheese quota of 16,800t, with provision to allow newcomers, including Ireland, 30% access to the new quota. There will also be an industrial cheese quota of 1,700t.
Žiga said that passing the CETA agreement is important for the EU's credibility: "The EU’s credibility as a negotiating partner is at stake, as is our trade policy", he told media. "If it is not possible for the EU to reach an agreement with Canada, it would be hard to imagine with what country we could reach agreement with given the closeness between the countries in terms of cultural values and other values too. I would find it hard to imagine why it wouldn’t be possible to complete the process by the end of October."