The European Parliament convened at the European Union Summit in Brussels last Wednesday to discuss several action items set to drive European Union Policy over the next year. A top agenda item for the European Parliament was finalizing the EU’s official position on the EU-U.S. free trade agreement negotiations, scheduled to begin next month. Accordingly, the U.S. should pay close attention to the outcome of the policy discussion that will undoubtedly shed light on how the EU plans to approach these negotiations and future engagement with its global trading partners.
During the summit, EU officials hoped to lay the groundwork for consultations with the U.S. to create a free trade pact, known as the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP), that would ease the flow of goods between two of the world’s largest traders; presently accounting for nearly a third of the world’s trade and close to half of global economic output.
Despite its immense economic potential, TTIP has already met with opposition from global stakeholders. These critics point to several likely obstacles impacting the success of the agreement. Specifically, many cite a deviation from World Trade Organization (WTO) efforts to reboot the Doha Round of trade negotiations and a history of EU-U.S. contention over trade policies governing global agriculture, intellectual property and information technology as key possible logjams.
In defending the choice to advance TTIP negotiations to the World Trade Organization and global critics, senior officials from the EU and U.S. point to the potential outcomes of the bilateral trade negotiations as key to the economic revitalization of the global economy and world-wide job creation. Internally, senior EU and U.S. officials have called for comprehensive trade negotiations and asked negotiators to avoid provisions that call for industrial omission or special treatment when they begin talks in June.
In line with the EU and U.S. governments’ counter-narrative, EU trade chief Karl de Gucht and U.S. Ambassador to the EU William Kennard echoed their respective administrations’ calls for “no exclusions” to be made during the talks this week. In doing so, De Gucht criticized France’s call to exclude film and television from the upcoming talks, ensuring an audience of European business executives that an agreement would not affect the current corporate infrastructure surrounding those industries. In his supporting comments, Kennard said that “carve-outs” would be detrimental to the overall success of the negotiations.
Other agenda items for the European Parliament during the EU Summit included discussing efforts to increase EU press freedom, hearing progress reports on Bosnia and Macedonia’s respective potential membership, confirming dates for the 2014 European elections expected to be held May 22-25 next year and voting on legislation establishing environmental safety regulations for offshore drilling.
From the EU’s perspective, establishing firm and consensual policy objectives for the EU-U.S. trade talks is the optimal outcome of this week’s summit. For the U.S., the outcome of the EP’s deliberations should provide U.S. trade officials with clearer understanding of the EU’s priorities and likely approach to TTIP negotiations. For both governments, the Wednesday meetings promise to unveil a policy geared toward breaking down trade barriers supporting the global supply chain.