The European Union and the United States yesterday (22 February) opened the 12th round of negotiations on the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), aiming to finally find a common ground on the deal’s most disputable aspects. TTIP has been under negotiations since mid-2013 and when finalized, it will create the world’s biggest free trade area removing tariffs and harmonizing regulation between both sides.
This new round of talks should, for the first time, touch upon the issue of an investment protection system that would enable companies to sue governments when they feel their interests are jeopardized. Both sides will discuss in detail a divisive proposal to create the protection system that has triggered a lot of criticism in Europe, mainly in Germany, where hundreds of thousands people demonstrated in October against the giant free trade deal.
The European Commission is in charge of the talks for the EU’s 28 Member sStates and it is about to offer Washington an alternative proposal that would include establishing a special court to deal with the investment protection system. TTIP’s opponents, however, say that the deal is undemocratic and would recklessly deregulate the European economy at the expense of ordinary citizens.
Washington and EU are planning to conclude talks by the end of this year, before the end of the Obama administration. US President Barack Obama will visit Germany in April to personally discuss the deal with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Both sides are believed to be close to an agreement that would eliminate tariffs and barriers on about 97 percent of the mutual trade.
Despite the progress in the negotiations, a number of problematic issues still remain on the agenda. On top of the investment protection system, Europeans still cannot accept the possibility of US genetically modified crops inundating its market in addition to the fears about limits on data sharing by international Internet companies.