President Obama first introduced the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in a State of the Union speech two years ago. Although policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic agree that TTIP would improve the economy, create jobs, and help small and medium-sized enterprises expand exports while increasing consumersâ choices, negotiations have made little progress. Hopefully this will not be the case during next week's eighth round of TTIP negotiations in Brussels.
A recent roundtable in Washington hosted by the Ecologic Institute brought together representatives from the Office of the US Trade Representative and from the EU Delegation in Washington, DC. Throughout the event, speakers highlighted the similarities between US and EU agricultural policy, the need for food and agricultural products to have real access to the market on the other side of the Atlantic, and the respect of each otherâs food production and safety systems. However they refrained from mentioning the more controversial topics truly at the heart of the ongoing TTIP negotiations concerning trade in agriculture.
TTIP and the State of the Union Address
"21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas. Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages. But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world's fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That's why I'm asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren't just free, but fair.
Look, I'm the first one to admit that past trade deals haven't always lived up to the hype, and that's why we've gone after countries that break the rules at our expense. But ninety-five percent of the world's customers live outside our borders, and we can't close ourselves off from those opportunities. More than half of manufacturing executives have said they're actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let's give them one more reason to get it done." -- Remarks by President Obama at the 2015 State of the Union Address
On Tuesday night, President Obama spoke passionately and eloquently in defense of his domestic and international agenda, and devoted significant attention to his priorities for trade. Calling on Congress to quickly consider and pass TPA as a means of ensuring that TTIP and TPP provide protections for American workers and the environment, Obama made his most personal plea yet to get these deals done. The next key step will be following through with individual members, many of whom are skeptical about trade--particularly in the Democratic party.
Republicans have responded favorably to the President's comments on trade made during the State of the Union. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) explicitly mentioned her party's intent to cooperate on passing an ambitious trade promotion authority bill during the official Republican response. And new chairmen in the House and Senate--Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT)--have both signaled their willingness to move quickly.
As with the negotiations themselves, 2015 will be a pivotal year for the politics of trade and moving forward both across the Pacific and the Atlantic.
Speeches & Official Announcements
Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron of the UK in Joint Press Conference
"We agreed that 2015 should be a pivotal year for an ambitious and comprehensive EU-US trade deal which could benefit the average household in Britain by 400 pounds a year. The UK is now the top destination for American and foreign investment [...] and America is the UK's biggest trade partner. [...] We want to build on this." - Prime Minister Cameron
Both President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron stated that with economies in both the US and UK growing and unemployment falling, their primary concern is to help create more jobs and sustainable economic demand in their countries. TTIP, they underlined, will boost demand in Europe and keep the transatlantic economies growing. They both noted the importance of "sticking to the course" and seeing through their economic plans. This, they stated, is the only sustainable way to create jobs, to raise living standards, and to secure a better future for hardworking people. (White House)
Commissioner MalmstrĂ¶m Speech in Vienna: Three Reasons why TTIP is Good for Austria
"So far the public debate, here in Austria and in many other countries, has focused on things that are not real issues, like GMOs, hormone beef and treatment for chickens. [...] I firmly believe that we can have a civil discussion, grounded in fact and that this is the best way for us to serve the people of Austria." - Cecilia MalmstrĂ¶m
Trade Commissioner MalmstrĂ¶m spoke in Vienna this afternoon about how TTIP would help boost the Austrian economy and help to secure Europe's place in a changing world. By taking steps to make the negotiations more transparent, MalmstrĂ¶m hopes that the real issues at stake can truly be addressed and fairly debated. She underlined the need to make the deal ambitious enough to deliver real economic gains, the best ways to strengthen public services through this agreement, and the opportunities for the EU and the US to set global standards together. (European Commission)
TPA: Empowering Congress to Set America's Trade Agenda
"Trade Promotion Authority empowers Congress to set America's negotiating priorities. It directs the administration by giving it instructions for negotiating with other countries. Under TPA, Congress calls the shots." - House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan
Keeping in line with his opening statement, Chairman Ryan noted the importance of TPA in a speech last Thursday. He stated TPA's role in establishing US negotiating objectives while keeping the Congress and the public fully informed during the trade negotiations process. By passing TPA, the US would make it clear that Congress and only Congress can approve trade agreements with other countries. (Committee on Ways and Means)
Representatives of the US TTIP negotiating team are traveling to Brussels this week to set the ground work for their upcoming negotiations in the next official Round, in early February. The "Fresh Start" that Commissioner MalmstrĂ¶m and Ambassador Froman have promised is about to begin in earnest.
Following the release of dozens of EU negotiating proposals and the initial analysis of the Commission's public consultation on investment protection, the next few weeks will be pivotal for the future of the agreement, as well as the political commitment on both sides of the Atlantic to make significant progress on the deal in 2015.
The European Commission Presents the Results of its Investment Protection Consultation
The European Commission published its analysis of the almost 150,000 replies to its online consultation on investment protection and investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in TTIP. Topics addressed included questions about safeguards on governments' right to regulate in the public interest, full transparency of ISDS proceedings, ethical requirements for arbitrators, and a possible appeals body.
Commissioner Cecilia MalmstrĂ¶m noted that there is significant skepticism in Europe about ISDS. Although the vast majority of replies were submitted through online platforms with pre-defined negative answers, the Commission also received individual replies from more than 3,000 individuals and some 450 organizations representing a wide spectrum of EU civil society, including NGOs, business organizations, trade unions, consumer groups, law firms, and academics.
ISDS is considered controversial because it allows investors to take governments to international arbitration tribunals rather than through the domestic court process. However ISDS does not give companies the right to limit governments' right to regulate. As long as governments do not regulate in a discriminatory manner against a foreign investor in that country, ISDS will not allow companies to ask for compensation. And no ISDS settlement can force a government to change any regulation whatsoever. Moreover, ISDS are not often used in international trade: of the 3,236 bilateral investments agreements worldwide, less than 3% of those agreements have ever seen any action taken under ISDS. (EurActiv)
The Commission is set to reinvigorate its discussions on ISDS with member states (who unanimously asked for ISDS to be included in TTIP in the negotiating mandate), the European Parliament, and other organizations including NGOs, trade unions, and business associations. Commissioner MalmstrĂ¶m underlined that the European Commission will only negotiate an agreement that is good for citizens, and would not lower the standards or limit governments' right to regulate.
To read the entire press release - Click here
For the video of the press conference - Click here
To view the full Commission Staff Working Document on the Public Consultation - Click here
EU Makes Significant Transparency Push
Yesterday's decision by the European Commission to release dozens of new documents outlining their negotiating positions represents a bold step forward for the transparency that campaigners both for and against TTIP have been clamoring for. It also marks an admission on behalf of the Commission that without greater public awareness and input, the deal will struggle to overcome the opposition that is growing against the agreement in some quarters.
Moreover, the publication of these documents seems to underline the point that the two sides are not actually as far apart on many key issues as people often imagine. While there are still several points of contention which will require difficult negotiation, the fact sheets across different chapters -- like SMEs, Energy, and rules on Sustainable Development -- underline that the US and EU have made real quantifiable progress since the talks began.
Now of course, the hard part begins, working on the areas where the disagreements are more frequent and the sides are further apart. Still, starting a more open public dialogue is a critically important step to hopefully winning the public's approval to move forward with an ambitious agreement.
See Reuters' take on the release of the documents here, and one from Germany's Zeit here (in German).
2015 promises to be a pivotal year for the TTIP negotiations, and global trade generally. After a (hopefully) restful holiday season, a new Congress is coming to a snow-covered Washington today -- and the European Union is returning to work in Brussels to outline its goals for 2015. Trade is high on both agenda, as it should be. Difficult election campaigns in Greece, Spain, the UK and (next year) the United States mean that significant progress towards TTIP is necessary should it see the light of day in the near future.
Winning over public opinion will be among the most important tasks in the year ahead. The graph to the right shows widespread public support for TTIP across Europe according to the latest Eurobarometer polls, but also highlights where more effort is needed -- chiefly in Germany, Austria, and Luxembourg.
As always, TTIP Action will be here to help provide the latest news and analysis, and positive pressure on the negotiating teams to keep up the momentum. We're also working on a number of in-house research projects to help make the case for an agreement and how it could help both the EU and the US economically and geopolitically. Here's to an ambitious and successful year ahead. We're looking forward to working with all of you!
Happy Holidays from TTIP Action
Dear readers, thank you so much for your attention, help, and support of TTIP Action over the course of 2014. It has been a pleasure working on this important and timely topic, and I am looking forward to continuing to help inform an educated debate about the future of TTIP and US and European trade policy into the next year.
Next week, I will be traveling to Europe to take in a bit of the holiday spirit across Germany, Austria, and Hungary. I am greatly looking forward to the chance to meet and talk with ordinary Europeans about their thoughts on the transatlantic relationship and the future of our economic relationship.
Today will mark the last TTIP Action newsletter of this year ahead of that trip and the holiday season.
I would like to extend a special personal thanks to Marie Kasperek who has ably and admirably collected and drafted the newsletter twice each week since Summer. Her work on TTIP and help across the Atlantic Council has been consistently excellent, and I will be watching with great interest to see where her career takes her next.
I would like to wish everyone an excellent holiday season and happy New Year.
Managing Editor, TTIP Action
Donald Tusk Takes Office as President of the European Council
"Both we and the Americans are responsible for the future of our relations. The year ahead will be crucial."
On December 1, former prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk replaced Herman van Rompuy as the President of the European Council. At the handover ceremony, he stressed Europe's need for success. More specifically, he called for a commitment to protect the EU fundamental values of freedom and solidarity, the preservation of unity of the European Union against internal and external threats, strong determination to end the economic crisis, and strong support for neighboring countries. In addition, he wishes for a stronger international stand of the European Union, and stresses the importance of transatlantic relations as the "backbone of democracy" in both the United States and the European Union. In this light, new Council President Tusk spoke with President Obama on the phone following the handover ceremony:
"We discussed the important work ahead of us in negotiating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The TTIP is not just about free trade; it is an expression of our geopolitical partnership. We agreed to step up our efforts towards reaching agreement." (Delegation of the European Union to the United States)
In addition, they agreed to work closely together on security issues like the current crisis in Ukraine and the fight against Ebola. (European Council)
Watch the official handover ceremony here and watch his biography told in his own words here.
Make sure you follow him on twitter @eucopresident. If you are interested in an analysis on President Tusk's future leadership, I would recommend reading this analysis by Reuters media.
- We wish all of you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving! Please note that due to the holidays, there will be no TTIP Action on Thursday, November 27-
Statement by Ambassador Michael Froman Following Meeting with European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia MalmstrĂ¶m
âWe have an opportunity to work together for a fresh start to the negotiations and we are off to a good beginning. The United States is committed to moving forward with T-TIP as soon as we can and as fast as weâre able. T-TIP can make a major contribution towards underscoring that the transatlantic relationship is second to none at a time of geopolitical uncertainty around the world. We very much look forward to working with Commissioner MalmstrĂ¶m and her colleagues toward that objective.â
At the closing of last week, US Trade Representative Michael Froman met with European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia MalmstrĂ¶m in Brussels, Belgium to discuss their future cooperation on TTIP. It was their first face-to-face meeting since the new Commission took office in early November. In response to their meeting, Commissioner MalmstrĂ¶m tweeted "Convinced we can achieve a good agreement on TTIP, beneficial to our economies and citizens in EU and US." Their meeting was preceded by a discussion between Commission President Juncker and President Obama in the framework of the G20 in Australia earlier this month. A follow up of this meeting is set for the second week of December when Commissioner MalmstrĂ¶m will visit Washington DC to continue her talks with Ambassador Froman. (United States Trade Representative)
Make sure you follow both US Trade Representative Michael Froman @MikeFroman and Trade Commissioner Cecilia MalmstrĂ¶m @MalmstromEU on Twitter to stay tuned about their cooperation on TTIP!