The United States and the European Union resumed yesterday (20 October) their negotiations on the controversial free trade deal across the Atlantic. The eleventh round of talks started in Miami and addressed a still long list of differences on major issues between both partners after more than two years of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The new round, however, started after the successful conclusion of the negotiations by a Pacific free trade group including the US, Japan, Canada, and nine other countries, which gave a glimmer of hope for a progress with the problematic issues in the TTIP negotiations.
Both the US and the EU focus mostly on lowering tariffs and non-tariff barriers, which are, however, only minor issues as taxes are already very low. The deal has also a broader scope aiming to setting “the rules for 21st century trade and investment” with special focus on harmonization of global business across the Atlantic as well as property issues. If successful, the deal will connect 850 million people producing about half of the world’s output. Its supporters are convinced that the TTIP will boost job creation and economic growth on both sides.
However, the deal has also been immensely criticized, especially in Europe, over important public regulations that could benefit mostly transnational corporations and put European health and environmental standards in jeopardy. Critics have also pinpointed the issue of extra-national investor-state dispute mechanism (ISDS), which would allow corporations to sue governments in an international court. The “Stop TTIP” protest has already collected about three million signatures against the deal and about 250,000 people attended a protest in Berlin on 10 October. Moreover, some politicians are also increasingly unhappy about the secrecy of the talks. French Foreign Trade Minister, Matthias Fekl, commented earlier this month that “there has to be substantial changes in the general mindset, that is in trust, reciprocity, and access to documents”.