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TTIP Talks Claim Progress, Deal Expected This Year

Progress was “solid” at the latest round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in New York last week, but much remains to be done.

The trade deal the United States is working on with the European Union is expected to eliminate tariffs, simplify procedures, cut red tape and bridge differences in the two territories’ regulatory systems to benefit of consumers, workers and businesses.

Speaking at Hanover Messe, an industrial trade fair in Hanover, Germany that coincided with the TTIP talks, President Obama stressed that “the time to complete TTIP is now,” and that the administration would make all efforts necessary to see the deal done.

In opening the talks, U.S. chief negotiator for TTIP, Daniel Mullaney said last week’s round was productive, but outlined the work that remains before the agreement can be settled.

“Let me say again what I have before: the United States has no interest in a ‘T-TIP Light.’ That would not fulfill the economic promise of the ambitious agreement we are seeking, and it would not pass muster with our stakeholders or our Congress,” Mullaney said, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). “We believe there remains sufficient time to complete an ambitious, comprehensive and high-standard T-TIP agreement this year, if we continue our intensive engagement and we mobilize the necessary political will, effort and determination on both sides.”

Mullaney said negotiators from the U.S. and EU have been engaging, almost daily, since the previous Brussels round, and have proposed agreement text in almost all negotiating areas.

“We made solid progress in developing agreement provisions on good regulatory practices, which would strengthen transparent rule-making on both sides of the Atlantic by ensuring opportunities for public input—without diminishing in any way parliamentary control and national decision-making authority,” according to Mullaney.

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Further progress was also made on tariff elimination. Both parties had agreed previously to eliminate tariffs on 97 percent of tariff lines, and at this latest round, they worked to increase the number of those lines for which tariffs would disappear entirely as soon as the agreement enters into force.

“In the months ahead, we will discuss the elimination of the remaining tariffs, and we will seek to accelerate the pace of reduction for tariff lines we have already agreed to phase out,” Mullaney said.

What hasn’t quite been hashed out yet are key areas like technical regulations, standards and services.

EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero said, “We are ready to work hard to try to conclude these negotiations in 2016, but of course, only if the substance of the deal is right. We are currently planning for another round before the summer break, most likely in July. The objective for this round would then be to continue to work on consolidation in all areas, so that we only have a very limited number of open issues, the so called ‘square brackets’, that will ultimately need to be resolved at political level.”