The US Congress and European Parliament vote are TTIP’s 10th round’s lucky cards

"So we meet again". Dan Mullaney, Chief US Negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Chief EU Negotiator for the TTIP, participated at the 10th round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, taking place in Brussels from 13 to 17th July 2015.

“So we meet again”! Dan Mullaney, Chief US Negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Chief EU Negotiator for the TTIP, participated at the 10th round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks, taking place in Brussels from 13 to 17th July 2015.

The 10th round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the European Union and the United States concluded last Friday in Brussels. The week of meetings and talks between US and EU negotiators came in a very delicate moment for the gigantic trade agreement, as EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero’s commented.

A crucial moment

“This week’s round has taken place at an important moment in these negotiations”, Mr. Garcia Bercero said at the final press conference in Brussels, before mentioning a few, crucial steps of TTIP’s recent history in Europe. Mr. Garcia Bercero openly referred to the 8 July vote, when the European Parliament approved its recommendations to European Commission’s TTIP negotiators – the so-called Lange Report – by 436 votes to 241, with 32 abstentions.

8th of July’s fireworks

Actually the 8 July vote, which had originally been scheduled for June’s plenary session and was postponed at the last minute by Parliament President Martin Schulz because of the “too many amendments” (more than 200) requested, represented a milestone in TTIP history. That day the European Parliament formally paved the way for the controversial Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism to be part of the EU-US trade agreement, although with a different look and content.

MEPs called for more transparency and said any ISDS mechanism “undercut democratic oversight” and so should be replaced by a public court procedure. From that moment on, all eyes have been pointed to last week’s meetings to see how the ISDS clause will be included in a final TTIP text and, possibly, know more about the future of the mammoth trade agreement itself.

“On 8 July the European Parliament gave strong support to the negotiations”, EU Chief Negotiator Garcia Bercero said last Friday. “This [the 8 July go-ahead] provides EU negotiators with a ‘strong and forwardlooking’ political guidance on how we should be engaging in the next phase of these negotiations. It also underlines that only a comprehensive, balanced and ambitious agreement would get the support of the European Parliament”, Mr. Garcia Bercero told reporters in Brussels at the end of the 10th round of talks.

No news good news on ISDS

That was basically all that Mr. Garcia Bercero had to say about the ISDS, to a great disappointment of many reporters in Brussels. He declared indeed that he and his US counterpart “had no discussion on investment protection or ISDS”, when asked if the subject had ever come up. “We will be able to put through a proposal in many ways different from the existing ISDS regime. We will now be working to finalise a proposal once we have gone through discussions with member states and the Parliament,” Mr. Garcia Bercero specified. US Chief Negotatior Dan Mullaney said the United States also understood the issues raised by the EU, and that “the US side is very much looking forward to the time, in the very near future, to get” the EU proposal.

Obama’s legacy

The US, indeed, can be an additional engine for the TTIP, in a moment in which Europe is dominated by a general lack of enthusiasm (not only around trade deals, for sure). “We have worked this week with strong political wind in our wings,” Mr. Garcia Bercero said, indeed referring to the support a recent accord in the US Congress gave to the world’s biggest free trade accord. Indeed what happened just a few weeks ago in the States represents a big step on the other side of the Atlantic.
The Obama administration was given a major policy victory on the 24th of June, when the Congress approved a major trade package that practically expands Obama’s powers to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals, including TTIP. This kind of “fast-track authority” is not new in the history of the United States, and clearly testifies the will of Obama administration to take TTIP back home before its time is over.

TTIP politics

TTIP looks politically strong now. The 8 July vote and the stubborn pressure of Obama administration might represent ‘a game changer’, but still negotiations and works look like they are proceeding with the handbrake on. Again, we have enthusiasm around the meeting room, but it is not very clear how talks are going and what significant achievements they are bringing, especially because of the too many open points on the way.

“We have an opportunity to conclude TTIP in the Obama term but there is still a lot of work to do” Mr. Mullaney said, perhaps clarifying it all.

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