Who and why want the EU-US trade agreement here and now

Dan Mullaney, Chief US Negotiator (on the left) and Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Chief EU Negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), gave a joint press conference following the TTIP meeting. The next round of TTIP negotiations will take place during the week of 7 October in Brussels (EC Audiovisual Services).

Dan Mullaney, Chief US Negotiator (on the left) and Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Chief EU Negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), gave a joint press conference following the TTIP meeting in Washington. The next round of TTIP negotiations will take place during the week of 7 October in Brussels (EC Audiovisual Services).

In the brief period of one week the European Union and the United States concluded last Friday in Washington the first round of talks for a major Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that is their bilateral free trade agreement. The time schedule of this grandiose endeavour is unbelievably short, given the magnitude of the economic relations it is supposed to regulate. Only the EU/US bilateral trade is almost half of world’s total trade, let alone the complexity of the rest of their economic relations, going as far as public procurement and the non-tariff regulative internal market barriers.

Full of GMOs and hormones

In detail this agreement covers market access to agricultural and industrial goods, government procurement, investment, energy and raw materials, regulatory issues, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, services, intellectual property rights, sustainable development, small- and medium-sized enterprises, dispute settlement, competition, customs/trade facilitation, and state-owned enterprises. Seemingly according to the American demands no financial or data protection issues are included. In short the agreement will cover the sectors the Americans want in, and leave outside what the US wants to continue being unregulated.

It took years for the EU to negotiate other free trade agreements but in this case the other side seem to be in a hurry. The EU Council decided at the beginning of this year that negotiations will begin in June 2013 and will be concluded before the end of the year. The agreement on this TTIP should be functional early next year. It will liberalise what the Americans want, which is their exports of GMOs and animal products saturated with hormones.

“It’s been a very productive week”, said EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio Garcia-Bercero coming out of the talks. “We have been striving already for many months to prepare the ground for an ambitious trade and investment deal that will boost the transatlantic economy”. This statement informs everybody that the agreement is already there and what is needed to finalise it is some petty details. Obviously Mr Ignacio didn’t confer with his superior, Commissioner Michel Barnier,who was also in Washington on this occasion.

What the Americans want

This morning the European Sting writer Maria Milouv reported that “Barnier however became more concrete and asked for the inclusion of financial regulation issues in the ongoing negotiations between the EU and the US for the conclusion of a free trade and investments bilateral agreement”. Of course the Americans denied it abruptly and the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Jacob Lew, on this Barnier proposal made a reference to the G20. Everybody knows that the G20 could not and would not write down rules for the financial sector. The leaders of the 20 biggest economies of the world can only discuss ideas for the future not concrete legislations.

The American pressures for a swift conclusion of the bilateral free trade and investment agreement are very strong. Not even the revelation that the US secret services have bugged the entire building of the EU mission in the US was enough to delay, not even for a short time, the progress of the talks for the TTIP. Mr Ignacio was unstoppable in advancing the ‘negotiations’. Obviously his mandate was to conclude the first round of the talks in one week no matter what.

According to the Commission Press release issued at the end of the round,“The negotiators met also in the middle of the week with approximately 350 stakeholders from academia, trade unions, the private sector, and non-governmental organisations to listen to formal presentations and answer questions related to the proposed agreement”. The Sting published this morning a photograph from this meeting. The scene is set in such a small room that couldn’t host more than ten seated people. It must have been a miracle to discuss such a serious issue with 350 stakeholders in this place in one day, even if the stakeholders were coming in shifts.

In any case the truth is that the Americans know exactly what they want from this free trade agreement. The same is true for Germany and Britain, the two EU countries which, for different reasons, want a brief conclusion of the agreement. Germany needs to continue unimpeded exporting to the US and Britain for its own reasons. It’s a pity however to watch the European Union lose its dignity in front of the US. No financial issues, no data protection will interfere in this US led operation.

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