Brexit and contentious topics complicate TTIP negotiations; public opposition continues

The 14th round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations was held in Brussels from July 11 to 15, 2016. Chief negotiators from the European Union, Ignacio Bercero, and United States, Dan Mullaney, admitted the need to overcome significant differences regarding services and procurement, despite progress on tariff elimination and regulatory cooperation.

Another factor holding back negotiations is Britain’s June 23 vote to leave the European Union. Mullaney emphasized the need to reflect on this development: “Imagine if the United States said, for instance, ‘Well, maybe TTIP will not apply to California’.” Europe’s second-largest economy, the United Kingdom is the largest market for U.S. services worldwide and accounts for 25 per cent of U.S. exports to the European Union.

As reported by The Guardian on July 20, certain U.S. officials suggest pushing for a “potentially swift bilateral trade and investment deal” with the United Kingdom as soon as it formally exits the European Union. This would serve to consolidate British–American economic relations as well as to expedite TTIP negotiations.

Opposition by civil society to the TTIP continues on many fronts. Outside the closed doors of the 14th round of negotiations, 40 protesters were escorted away by Brussels police after “attacking” officials with confetti. Opinion polls in Germany and Luxembourg indicate that people in both countries believe the agreement will bring more disadvantages than advantages. Civil society organizations from both countries and 18 other EU states signed a letter to Council of Europe President Donald Tusk demanding the immediate withdrawal of the European Commission’s mandate to negotiate the TTIP.

Lack of transparency and of opportunities for public participation in negotiations is among the reasons for opposition. On May 2, Greenpeace Netherlands leaked several negotiating documents, and called for debate before any further negotiations. The European Commission furthered its commitment to transparency by publishing nine of its proposals during the 14th round.

In February the chief EU and U.S. negotiators had announced their intention to produce a consolidated draft by the end of July. At the end of the 14th round, Bercero affirmed this was more likely to occur by the end of September.

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