Leading politicians in Germany and France are mistaken when they say that TTIP is over, Washington’s Trade Representative Michael Froman told German news website Der Spiegel
On Tuesday, French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl told radio station RMC that “there is no more political support from France in the negotiations,” and called on the European Commission to stop negotiations with the US. “What France is demanding is the pure, simple and definitive halt of these negotiations,” Fekl said.
On Sunday German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said that negotiations between the US and EU on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) had come to a halt, putting an end to the plan.
“In my opinion the negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, because we Europeans did not want to subject ourselves to American demands,” Gabriel, who is also Minister for Economic Affairs, told German broadcaster ZDF.
However, on Wednesday an “irritated” Froman told Der Spiegel that TTIP is still very much alive, and contradicted Gabriel. “I do not share the assessment of Minister Gabriel. The reaction from the Chancellor’s office and the European Commission shows that they also see things differently. In trade talks, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Progress is not measured by how many negotiating chapters have been closed, but by whether both sides can find solutions to all problems,” Froman said, and expressed surprise at the negative discourse around TTIP in Europe.
The US trade chief said that despite Europe’s opposition, his government is still confident of wrapping up a deal by the end of the year, and called TTIP an “important opportunity” to “strengthen the transatlantic partnership and connect both continents in order to shape a global trading system.”
The TTIP deal has been criticized both for its secrecy, and the content of negotiations. Most of the information about the content of the negotiations has come from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests. In a sign of the sway of corporations in the negotiations, one FoI request found that during the course of TTIP negotiations from January 2012 – February 2014, the EU Commission’s trade department held ten times more meetings with business lobbyists than with trade unions or consumer groups. Critics say the deal will open the way to privatization of public assets in the EU, because the trade deal aims to guarantee firms “market access” to sell services on both sides of the Atlantic, which would include the abolition of monopolies like a national healthcare system, or national railway.
Another area of concern is the loosening of European regulations in areas such as privacy, the environment, health and safety and worker’s rights, since US regulation offers less protection in these areas. TTIP proposes dialogue between regulators on existing and future legislation, giving the US an opportunity to exert influence on EU regulatory proposals before they are considered by elected bodies such as the EU Council and European Parliament. Another major concern is that multinational companies could use the Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) proposed by TTIP to sue national governments if their policies cause them to lose profit. The clause can be exploited by multinationals to claim compensation from governments, even if the legislation in question protected public health.