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.
Speeches and Official Announcements
Employment and Trade MEPs Quiz TTIP Experts
“There are four elephants in room: ISDS [investor-to-state dispute settlement]; the status of public services; whether there will be any new jobs; and if so what kind of jobs will be created”. (Marita Ulskvog; acting chair of the Employment Committee)
At a joint public hearing held by the Employment and International Trade Committees today, negotiators and experts of TTIP were questioned about safeguards for labor standards and public services, and how the conclusion of TTIP could create more high-quality jobs. In their meeting, the employment and international trade MEPs voiced their concerns about the possible privatization of public services and the alleged deterioration of labor standards. All of their concerns were refuted with facts and figures by key negotiators and experts. Chief negotiator of the EU Commission Ignacio Bercero assured his audience that once concrete proposals are sent to his US counterparts, they will be made public.(European Parliament)
Watch the video of the public hearing here and read a briefing by the European Commission on labor in TTIP here.
Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on ‘Transatlantic Trade Relations and the EESC’s Views on an Enhanced Cooperation and Eventual EU-USA FTA’
“The Committee believes that a successful TTIP could be a significant factor in creating real growth and optimism. Given the general tardy recovery from the financial and economic crises of 2008, a balanced agreement could further the European economy’s return to economic growth and job creation.”
Providing studies on the economic, social, and environmental impact of TTIP, the European Economic and Social Committee offers both conclusions and recommendations on the transatlantic agreement, stressing the importance of including a chapter on small and medium enterprises and regulatory cooperation in TTIP. (Official Journal of the European Union)
The WTO is Back in Business’ – Statement by Cecilia Malmström, EU Trade Commissioner
’I welcome today’s decisions in the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Trade Facilitation, public stockholdings for food security purposes and future trade negotiations.” (Cecilia Malmström)
After the United States and India resolved their disagreements, the World Trade Association announced the adoption of the Trade Facilitation Agreement which aims to facilitate trade between countries through a global reform on duties and tariffs and a reduction in red tape at international borders. Trade Commissioner Malmström underlined the importance of its adoption, stating that “today’s decisions not only implement the landmark Bali agreements, they confirm the WTO’s role at the centre of international trade policy.” (European Commission)
Sigmar Gabriel: ‘Germany will Approve CETA’
After clashing with his own party over the inclusion of ISDS in the CETA agreement between Europe and Canada, German Minister of Economic Affairs Sigmar Gabriel encouraged German members of Parliament to vote in favor of the agreement last week. He reminded his collegues that the rest of Europe is in favor of an agreement which includes ISDS provisions. (Euractiv)
Lithuania Wants Faster Completion of TTIP Negotiations Between European Union and United States
At a conference on the strategic opportunities of TTIP on November 25 held in Vilnius, Lithuania, Chancellor of the Government Alminas Mačiulis spoke out in favor of a timely conclusion of the transatlantic agreement. He underlined the economic and strategic benefits that TTIP would bring for the region, calling it an “appropriate response to a context of uncertainty and lack of progress in the multilateral arena”. (The Lithuania Tribune)
TTIP Political Meetings Resume in Wake of Leadership Transitions
With recent transitions in the European Commission and the Republican win in the midterm elections, officials and experts now see a “window of opportunity” to advance talks about TTIP before the US general election in 2016. In this light, new EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and US Trade Representative Michael Froman will meet in Washington on December 8, followed by the next round of TTIP negotiations in Brussels in the beginning of February. (International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development)
Europe Targets US Web Firms
In the framework of their ongoing battle against US technology giants including Google, Facebook , and Apple, France and Germany asked the European Union to look into new competition rules and other regulations that better target the business practices of major technology firms. At the same time, the European Parliament overwhelmingly adopted a (non-binding) resolution calling for a breakup of Google. (The Wall Street Journal)
What if TTIP Fails?
In his thought- provoking opinion piece, Axel Berger from the German Development Institute talks about the effects that recent public criticism on TTIP has on its negotiation progress and what it would mean for the European economy, the European integration process, and the world trade system at large if TTIP failed. Instead of criticizing an unfinished agreement, critics should make constructive suggestions on how to make TTIP more inclusive and transparent. (German Development Institute)
TTIP is Good for the People of Europe
In her excellent piece in the German newspaper FAZ, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström calls TTIP one of Europe’s new challenges but also a great opportunity that should not be missed. Hence, she sees it as her mission to give the negotiations new impetus. She stresses however, that there a many misperceptions about what TTIP would entail, firmly asserting that health, food and consumer standards will not be lowered. With regards to ISDS, she sees TTIP as an opportunity to revise current rules and adapt and modernize them to address concerns of civil society. (FAZ) – Original article in German
The Politics of TTIP – What are the Key Controversies, How to Address Them?
The European Centre for International Political Economy recently held a conference on European and American viewpoints on TTIP. A forthcoming study by Matthias Bauer analyzed online media coverage on TTIP and how it presents the views of anti-TTIP groups, the European Commission, business associations, and coalition groups in the European Parliament, indicating that pro-TTIP groups have to be more active on social media. In addition, Chris Israel presented a poll done by the Tarrance Group about US opinions on TTIP, which showed strong support among Americans for deepening economic ties with the European Union. (European Centre for International Political Economy)
TTIP Tipping Point
In his blog entry to The Hill, Tony Lucadamo names numerous external as well as internal factors like the Republican victory in the Senate, China’s growing influence, Russian aggression, President Obama’s promise to focus on TTIP, and slow economic recovery on both sides of the Atlantic, that speak in favor of TTIP – now. If the United States and the European Union do not act in a timely fashion, they will miss out on major economic as well as geostrategic benefits. (The Hill)
ACTA Revisited? TTIP and Data Privacy
Using the example of the failed ACTA agreement, Marlon Graf explains how important it is for decision-makers in trade agreements to take public concerns regarding their data privacy and protection into account. Whilst the author thinks it is necessary to assure citizens that TTIP will not include any controversial data sharing provisions, some experts see TTIP as a possible forum to re-engage in long-standing transatlantic debates on data provisions. (RAND Corporation)
TTIP – Much Better than its Reputation
In the context of rising criticism against many provisions of TTIP in the German public, the German media company WDR produced a video that outlines the many benefits and opportunities that TTIP would bring for consumers as well as producers- on both sides of the Atlantic. The article accompanying the video addresses the many misperceptions about TTIP that currently circulate in Germany, including the infamous “chlorine chicken” and ISDS. The authors conclude that TTIP is much better than its reputation in Germany suggests – and a chance that Germany cannot afford to miss as the competition is not standing still. (WDR) – Original article and video in German
One Year into the TTIP Negotiations: Is the Momentum Gone?
Are the talks progressing as fast as initially hoped? Are the barriers surmountable? Will this giant free trade zone actually be realized? What effect will TTIP have on the WTO? One year after in the TTIP negotiations, Simon Lester of the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development ponders on these important questions. He concludes that the impact of TTIP is hard to predict but that to give this important trade deal a chance, negotiators need to agree on a reasonable agenda and fight hard to conclude it. (International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development)
Small Business Needs TTIP to Overcome Obstacles
After the Atlantic Council’s recent event on the opportunities for small and medium enterprises in TTIP, Raj Subramaniam, Executive Vice President of FedEx, who was one of the panelists, emphasizes the importance of TTIP for small and medium enterprises to overcome the hurdles that prevent EU and US SMEs from exporting to the United States or the European Union, respectively. In order to achieve this goal, the United States and the European Union need to realize that their relationship is not of adversarial but strategic nature, seizing the benefits of regarding trade as a “two way street”. (International Trade)
Livestream – A Transatlantic Talk with MEP David McAllister on the New European Parliament and the Atlantic – December 2 in Washington DC; Watch the livestream here
TTIP: Towards a Transatlantic Regulatory Coalition? – December 3 in Brussels; hosted by the College of Europe – More Information.
ISDS: A Fact- and Experience-Based Review – December 4 in Brussels; hosted by the Trans- Atlantic Business Council – More Information
EU Trade Civil Society Dialogues – December 4 in Brussels; hosted by the European Commission – More Information
Global Flow Security: A New Security Agenda for the Transatlantic Community in 2030 – December 4 in Washington DC; hosted by the Center for transatlantic Relations- More Information. Read the online version of their book here.
TTIP 101: What’s In It For You? – December 5 in Washington DC; hosted by the British American Business Association – More Information
Obama’s International Legacy: Now or Never? The United States and International Trade – December 5 in Paris; hosted by Institut Francais des Relations Internationales – More Information
Getting Innovative: How T-TIP Can Boost Transatlantic Entrepreneurship – December 9 in Brussels; hosted by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the United States Mission to the European Union – RSVP here
Invitation: What Can the United States and Europe Still Expect of One Another? December 12-14 in Loccum, Germany; hosted by the Atlantic Community – More Information
The Second Annual EU-US Trade Conference: TTIP Where Now for the EU-US Trade Deal? February 5, 2015 in Brussels; hosted by Forum Europe – More Information
February 2015 – Eighth Round of TTIP Negotiations – More information to follow