US cam­paign rhetoric won't stop TTIP trade talks: EU trade chief

The Pak Banker - - 6BUSINESS -

Europe's top trade of­fi­cial plans an am­bi­tious push to seal a sweep­ing U.S.-Euro­pean free trade deal this year even as bit­ter U.S. pres­i­den­tial pri­mary races sour voter sen­ti­ment to­wards trade. With many can­di­dates, in­clud­ing Repub­li­can front-run­ner Don­ald Trump and Demo­crat Bernie San­ders, voic­ing strong op­po­si­tion to the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade pact, its Euro­pean coun­ter­part, still un­der ne­go­ti­a­tion, has largely flown un­der the radar.

Euro­pean Union Trade Com­mis­sioner Ce­cilia Malm­strom told re­porters on a visit to Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day that ma­jor ne­go­ti­at­ing rounds for the Trans-At­lantic Trade and In­vest­ment Part­ner­ship (TTIP) were sched­uled for April and July, with more in­for­mal meet­ings in March, June and May. She will meet U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Michael Fro­man this week to dis­cuss progress.

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial front-run­ner Hil­lary Clin­ton's sur­prise de­feat by San­ders in man­u­fac­tur­ing-heavy Michi­gan has laid bare grow­ing voter anger over trade and job losses..

De­spite such op­po­si­tion, Malm­strom said she was de­ter­mined to sew up most of the TTIP chap­ters by sum­mer, in­clud­ing set­tling ma­jor dif­fer­ences over U.S. "Buy Amer­i­can" govern­ment pro­cure­ment stan­dards, how to re­solve in­vest­ment dis­putes and over Europe's many ge­o­graph­i­cal rules that gov­ern food prod­ucts from Parma ham to feta cheese.

"We are de­ter­mined to try to push this, if pos­si­ble, to fi­nal­ize it, be­ing aware that there will be a new ad­min­is­tra­tion that will have a word on it," Malm­strom said. "If we are to fin­ish this be­fore the end of the year, of course we need to en­ter the end-game by the sum­mer." But with some U.S. con­gres­sional lead­ers say­ing that the TPP deal is un­likely to get a vote be­fore the Novem­ber pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, the TTIP is vir­tu­ally cer­tain to be left to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama's suc­ces­sor.

Malm­strom said that EU and U.S. ne­go­tia­tors last week traded pro­pos­als on the dif­fi­cult is­sue of in­vest­ment dis­pute res­o­lu­tion. The EU has ob­jected to the U.S. model for in­vestor-state dis­pute set­tle­ment with bind­ing ar­bi­tra­tion and re­cently bol­stered its ar­gu­ment by sign­ing a free trade deal with Canada that in­cludes Europe's model for a more court-like sys­tem that al­lows for ap­peals.

No ne­go­ti­a­tions have taken place yet over the dis­pute res­o­lu­tion pro­pos­als, but Malm­strom said, "I don't ex­pect this to pass smoothly."

Malm­strom said she was de­ter­mined not to let U.S. cam­paign rhetoric against free trade jobs stall the TTIP ne­go­ti­a­tions. "With­out en­ter­ing into de­bate with one in­di­vid­ual, I don't share those ar­gu­ments," she said. "In good trade agree­ments, there are a lot of eco­nomic ad­van­tages."

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