Notes from Brussels TTIP stakeholders meeting

Update notes on the TTIP first negotiation round – civil society stakeholder dialogue

Brussels, 16 July 2013

Damien Levie, EU Deputy Chief Negotiator for the TTIP started his presentation saying that 65 European negotiators went to DC last week. On the U.S. side, there were more than 300 U.S. government officials. He described the first round as a very good one. He stated that the EU negotiators’ trip to the U.S. was facilitated by the fact that the European Parliament did not support an amendment asking for the postponing of the trip. He reminded that the TTIP will be a fully fledged international treaty. He explained that both sides 6-8 months working on increasing the confidence on many areas. He emphasized that the EU is serious about this agreement and can indeed deliver. He commented that during this first round both sides set out their approaches and ambitions while identifying differences and commonalities.
He said that there are 3 areas of the negotiations, three pillars:
a) Market access area (goods, investment): On this, he said that an economic study on goods is due for end of September and there can be no discussion as long as this study is not available. On the issues of services, investment and public procurement, he noted that discussions are at the very start. At the moment, both sides determine the scope of the chapters and identify some restrictions. He added that there has been agreement on the next steps.
b) Cross-cutting horizontal discussion (transparency), the usual technical barriers to trade and specific economic sectors (pharma, cars, medical devices, financial services) in all these areas there is active engagement from both sides.
c) IP, energy, raw materials, competition, customs and trade facilitation, sustainable development: He said that both sides started framing what could be the future chapters. Two objectives: improve bilateral economic relations and contribute to new global standards.
He concluded by saying that the second round is scheduled to take place the second week of October in Brussels but that remains to be confirmed.
European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) asked on greater participation of stakeholders. She also mentioned that in the EU mandate, there is reference to sustainability impact assessments.
Damien Levie replied that today’s event is yet another evidence of the Commission’s commitment to transparency and stakeholder engagement. He added that the EU side differs from the US one in terms of the fact that there is no single bureau able to curtail leaks of documents contrary to the U.S. side. On the impact assessments, he commented that the European Commission will publish a call for tenders by August 2013. These studies are outsourced to contractors. He explained that he anticipates the selection to take place by November.
A representative of the animal welfare movement asked about sustainable development and animal welfare.
Damien Levie replied that both issues are on the table and will be discussed.
Friends of the Earth emphasized the need for information to be provided before the negotiations and not afterwards. Leaks are not enough. Civil society should not rely on leaked documents. There must be real dialogue. She then asked about how environmental issues will be handled. On the issue of technical barriers to trade, she said that the big worry is how the existing legislation will influence the potential future legislation.
Damien Levie replied that the European Commission is committed to transparency. He assured that negotiations will not lower the existing levels of protection. On the issue of the environment, he said that the EU insists on seeking assurances even commitments on biodiversity and ecosystems. In the EU position this has been clearly stated.
Replying to a question of the European Patent Office, the trade negotiators present replied that as far as IPR are concerned, in the first round, the US has identified the absence of a grace period as being problematic for some of their stakeholders.
Geographical Indications & wine: EU negotiators explained that following two hours of discussion, the EU made it clear that this is a must-have. The US said that it will engage even though it is not easy for them. Wine was not specifically discussed.
A representative of the audiovisual sector commented on the role of the U.S. Congress in the process. He said that the US trade department has very close association with Congress – they have more engagement with staffers who are real experts.
Relying to a question on cross border data flows: and whether they will it be part of TTIP or not, a DG Trade representative replied that nowadays global economy many of the services are obviously provided in a digital form so this is a business reality that services negotiations will have to discuss and it will be certainly discussed in future rounds.
A representative of the ICT sector asked what the EU strategy will be in the negotiations and whether ICT issues will be discussed as different chapters.
A Commission representative replied that the use of domestic remedies will be encouraged. He added that telecoms are one of the highly important sectors where cross-border trade plays an important role. The EU-US have in the past agreed on a number of principles on this topic area.
On other questions, EU representatives said the following: 1) EU-US have different views on what an international standard is. This is an area where further discussions are envisaged, 2) on SMEs, there have been discussions; particularly on previous FTAs that the US has concluded. Specific SMEs issues will be discussed in the implementation of TTIP. The instutional set up remains to be seen, 3) on Culture & A/V services: Commission representatives replied that the content of the mandate is already known to everyone due to leaks. He added that the U.S. is also aware of the mandate of the EU and during the first round EU negotiators explained to their U.S. counterparts what the mandate means, 4) as regards cross-border payments, EU trade negotiators explained that this is not an issue which is included as such. He added that it has not been discussed it yet because of the ongoing internal regulation on this point, 5) on the issue of the precautionary principle, the European Commission explained what it means i.e. the right to take measurers when one side does not have enough scientific measures. He added that there will be further discussions on this point with the U.S. side, 6) on the issue of generic medicines, the European Commission replied that the American FDA was present at the table – there was an exchange of views. One of the aspects that the Commission suggested as a potential area of discussion is to establish a better system for authorization.
Damien Levie, concluding the event reiterated that the first round was just an exchange of views. He emphasized that at this stage, discussions were not in-depth.

Yannis Natsis, TACD, Brussels