EU–U.S. negotiations: ISDS on hold and controversy on a leaked EU proposal for the sustainable development chapter; secrecy in TTIP negotiations still a concern

From October 19 to 23, 2015, EU and U.S. officials conducted the 11th round of TTIP negotiations in Miami, United States. The agreement, in negotiation since 2013, aims at liberalizing trade and investment between the two parties, which encompass 850 million people and over half of the world’s economy.

Negotiators said “substantial progress” was made in Miami, particularly in reconciling positions on tariffs and regulatory cooperation. Investment protection standards have not yet been discussed. U.S. negotiators insist that the deal must include an ISDS mechanism, which remains controversial in public debate, particularly in Europe. The European Union’s investment court proposal has not yet been brought to the negotiation table.

A draft EU proposal for the Trade and Sustainable Development Chapter was leaked on October 23 by The Guardian. The newspaper criticized the text for containing “only vaguely phrased and non-binding commitments,” despite earlier promises by the European Union to “set high levels of environmental and labour protection.”

Secrecy in the negotiations continues to be a concern. Publishing all key negotiating texts—in TTIP as well as other negotiations—is one of the pillars of the European Commission’s new strategy, “Trade for all: A more responsible trade and investment policy,” published in October 2015. European politicians expect reciprocity from their U.S. counterparts. In an interview on September 28, French Foreign Trade Minister Matthias Fekl threatened pulling France out of TTIP negotiations if U.S. negotiators fail to be more transparent.

Both parties are intensifying the pace of negotiations. U.S. officials are pushing to conclude the agreement before the end of President Barack Obama’s term in January 2017, while EU officials foresee that negotiations may take longer. The next formal round of negotiations is scheduled for February 2016.

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