The EU wants to take a fresh start for a free-trade agreement with the US after the talks on an extensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), but bake smaller rolls. The Council of Ministers paved the way for the EU Commission on Monday, allowing for formal negotiations with Washington on a new agreement. At the same time, the Member States declare that their former mandate for TTIP of June 2013 has become obsolete.
The new guidelines for the talks include two possible treaties with the US, covering a trade agreement focused exclusively on industrial goods. Agricultural products should be expressly excluded this time in order to avoid disputes about “Chlorhühnchen”. Another part is a “conformity assessment”. Its purpose is to make it easier for companies to demonstrate that their products meet the technical requirements on both sides of the Atlantic and are exempt from customs duties.
TTIP 2.0 in dialogue
The Commission undertook to assess the potential “economic, environmental and social consequences” of the proposed agreement, in line with the guidelines agreed by EU governments. In doing so, it will “take into account the EU’s commitments in international agreements, including the Paris Agreement on Climate Change”.
To prevent widespread protests, as in the case of TTIP, the Commission intends to conduct the impact assessment and the negotiation process itself “in regular dialogue with the European Parliament, the Member States, civil society and all relevant stakeholders”, in line with its own transparency commitments. There is already a public consultation on “voluntary regulatory cooperation”. Critics fear that about this instrument corporations might have a say in law changes.
The mandate also ensures that the EU will not conclude an agreement as long as the current additional levies on steel and aluminum exports are in force. The talks should also be immediately unilaterally terminated if US President Donald Trump would be serious and impose heavy punitive tariffs on German and European cars.
Benefits for everyone
“We want a win-win situation that benefits both the EU and the US,” underscored Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Customs duties on manufactured goods should fall sharply, leading to an additional € 26 billion increase in EU and US exports. “Especially in the age of globalization and digitization, a free trade agreement between the EU and the US would reduce barriers to trade and encourage investment and employment on both sides,” the American Chamber of Commerce said in Germany (AmCham). Previous tensions could be dissolved, a further escalation prevented.