Vieuws | 14 October 2015
Member states give Commission green light to go ahead with second tariff offer in TTIP
The Trade Policy Committee (TPC), made up of member state representatives, has given the European Commission a green light to go ahead with the second exchange of tariff offers in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks with the US.
Following intensive technical discussions, the trade representatives backed, on 13 October, the Commission’s proposal to upgrade from 96% to 97% the EU’s offer on full abolition of tariff lines at the entry into force of the agreement.
The Commission expects the US to come up with an equally ambitious offer, proposing an abolition of 97% of all tariff lines. Back in February 2014, the US was ready to fully liberalise only 89% of its tariff lines.
The adjustment of the EU offer will inter alia result in a shift of 2% of agricultural and industrial tariff lines, according to sources. Under the new offer, they will be subject to progressive liberalisation, providing for 5, 7 and 10 year-long transitional periods, EU Trade Insights has learned.
According to EU sources, the offers will be exchanged shortly before the next TTIP negotiating round on 19-23 October in Miami, Florida.
A majority of member states has supported the Commission’s move towards further liberalisation of trade in goods with the US, with Sweden calling for a more ambitious EU approach.
But France expressed its reservations. It described the Commission’s decision to go ahead with the exchange of the second tariff offer “premature” in the light of the lack of progress on public procurement and financial services. Paris insisted that such a move should be made only during the end game.
Despite pressure from the EU, negotiators are not expected to exchange public procurement offers at this time. The USTR signaled that it might be ready to table its proposal only in February next year.
For a long time the EU has refused to come up with a revised tariff offer, insisting that the US should first deliver on public procurement. The EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero has been pressing his US counterpart Dan Mullaney to agree on the “architecture” of a public procurement chapter before any new tariff offer exchange.
But the Americans are “continuously” repeating that public procurement is as “sensitive” an issue for them as the Investment Court System (ICS) is for the EU, according to sources. They insist that the exchange of procurement offers should take place after the investment talks are unlocked.
Meanwhile, the EU is continuing internal consultations on the draft proposal for an Investment Court System. It is expected that this offer will be ready for the exchange with the US at the next negotiating round planned for December.
Following the recent conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks between the US and eleven countries from the Asia-Pacific region, hopes are high in Brussels and other EU capitals that the TTIP negotiations will now move into a higher gear.