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Press conference: 8th round TTIP negotiations

On February 6, following the 8th round of TTIP negotiations, Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Chief EU Negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and US Trade's Dan Mullaney joined press representatives to give an overview of how talks were progressing. A summary of the conference can be found below:

Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Chief EU Negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership gave an overview of what important elements will be assessed in 2015. Commissioner Malmström has met the US ambassador twice, it was explained, with a political roadmap designed for 2015. The clear intention of both parties has been to make progress this year and as such an intense schedule has now been agreed. Two more meetings of comprehensive rounds will take place between now and the summer break, he said. There will be some smaller rounds between these two major meetings, such as in the sectorial cooperation field, he explained. In the three main fields of market access, regulatory issues and rules, the principle aims remain. He said that comprehensive talks have taken place over the 8th round, but not on ISDS. From an EU perspective, a high and equivalent system of market access issues have been discussed. On the issue of tariffs, discussions have allowed for a better understanding of the main issues affecting each side. On the issue of public procurement, two days of talks have been held which have allowed a better understanding of priorities and sensitivities here as well. The EU wants to step up talks on procurement issues, he explained. Negotiators have spent up to eight full days discussing horizontal and wider regulatory issues. These issues are framed primarily by the regulators, and not led by the trade negotiators – notably in the chemicals, cosmetics, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, cars and textiles – he said. He underlined that nothing taking place in the discussions lower the protection for any other public policy goal, be it environment or safety related. The proposals on technical trade and regulatory cooperation have been put forward by both EU and US partners. This has allowed negotiators to discuss in detail these elements and find common ground. The negotiators will start work on the consolidated texts, and this is where talks are at now. On *regulatory cooperation*, the EU has tabled a proposal to the US and it will be made publicly online next week. It is hoped that this will lead to a better understanding of the EU priorities in this area. Bercero said that priorities also include food regulatory practices, including impact assessments and stakeholder feedback. Secondary priorities include regulatory cooperation between US and European regulators. Close cooperation results in good regulatory outcomes, he explained. Progress in this area should be made without sacrificing the right to do what the EU deems necessary to protect citizens in each sector mentioned. Wide ranging discussions also took place on rules which are important to the EU and US, as well as global standards. Sustainable development discussions, including on labour and environment issues, have taken place. Both parties agree on the need to protect workers’ rights and the environment which will likely allow for a chapter on these issues. He continued by saying that intellectual property, state of origin and energy and raw materials were also discussed. Furthermore, SMEs formed a large part of this TTIP round discussions. He explained that many presentations were made during the negotiations and have shown that less burdensome custom procedures and other regulatory hurdles are important to these businesses. As in previous rounds, he said that the US and EU teams have had the opportunity to spend a whole day listening to civil society bodies and these considerations are a major part of these negotiations.

Dan Mullaney, US Trade Negotiator, said that in November, the EU and USA renewed their commitment to conclude a TTIP. Since then, the US Ambassador and Commissioner Malmström have met to work towards achieving this aim. More concrete progress is needed to turn this commitment into a reality, he said. Vice-President Biden has also lent support with other leaders for the conclusion of TTIP. He outlined that progress has been made on tariffs but more concrete achievements are needed. If negotiations are to be moved along, more movement must be seen from both sides. Mullaney said that regulatory coherence is important whilst adding that joint texts are to be seen in the coming TTIP rounds. Regulatory approaches which are more compatible are desired, and he said that work is being done to remove unnecessary burdens to trade between the US and EU. He furthered that nothing in TTIP is being done to undermine Governments’ rights to protect workers, consumers and the environment in ways which are seen fit. Stakeholders have been met with and helped address issues of SME rights. The next TTIP round will take place in April where best practice workshops will be held concerning SMEs. He said that the US team is confident that with stakeholder engagement, a high quality and comprehensive agreement can be achieved over 2015. Work is being intensified and will take place again in rounds for April and July. He concluded by saying that the US is fully committed to the partnership and the agreement.

A representative of Argus Media said that energy and raw materials have been mentioned. Has any real progress been made this week, he asked.

Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Chief EU Negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership said that discussions of a technical nature have taken place, including within the field of renewable energy. He said that the potential outcomes in this area have been discussed and understood, or better understood, by both sides.

A German Radio participant asked what was discussed in terms of trade facilitation.  A text on regulatory cooperation was proposed by the EU, did the US also propose one?

Ignacio Garcia Bercero, Chief EU Negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership replied that the discussions focused on the elements of energy and raw materials which are specific to that particular sector. He said that discussions focused on what can be done in this area, rather than what cannot be done, to facilitate exchange. On trade facilitation, he said that issues of customs are being explored to see what can be brought into the TTIP negotiations.

Dan Mullaney, US Trade Negotiator said that in the energy and raw materials sector, the focus has been on what measures are available to facilitate trade and see whether a separate sector is needed for energy trade – or if it can be dealt with implicitly in the other sections. If provisions can be put forward which get rid of, or limit, red tape and delays then EU-US trade can be turbo charged. These obstacles can be insurmountable for small enterprises, whilst not being a major problem for larger ones. There are consolidated texts here and the differences are being ironed out, he said. With regard to regulation, a US proposal was put down several months ago and these conversations are happening as we speak. The US is dealing with this from a “good regulatory practice” perspective to make stakeholders aware and regulators accountable.

A Belgian News Agency journalist said that he thought the idea was to create a regulatory convergence system body. He asked for more details on this.

Ignacio Garcia Bercero said that the EU proposal will be published online on Tuesday. The main objective is that once TTIP has been concluded, a good level of cooperation between EU and US regulators is to be maintained. The body is not to vet the regulations being made by both parties – it is not to make a decision and will not delay the regulatory decisions being made. In terms of civil society aims, the body will be intergovernmental rather than include civil society members but provisions will be made so long as representatives from industry, NGOs, trade unions etc. are represented equally.

Dan Mullaney, US Trade Negotiator said that the proposal for the regulatory cooperative body was included in the Commission text tabled the other day. US and EU negotiators are working to fully understand the framework being described, he said. The body is to acknowledge that not all issues are to be concluded under the TTIP and so an ongoing framework is needed. Once a framework package has been agreed, an institutional framework should be in place which acknowledges the work achieved under the TTIP agreement.

A journalist from Inside US Trade said that on the issue of financial services, the US has been shown new flexibility, likewise with the EU on tariffs. What is the US prepared to give to move these elements forward and what has the EU been getting in return he asked.

Ignacio Garcia Bercero said that the aim is to move forward on all the chapters, and not look back. The tariffs have been explained and discussed which has helped understanding and that has helped the spirit of the negotiations. On the Financial Services point, he said that the regulatory cooperation position continues. It is important to anchor this cooperation in TTIP alongside with a strong framework.

Dan Mullaney, US Trade Negotiator said that good will exists to move forward on these areas which has been the basis for the fresh start on TTIP. On the Financial Services position, the US position is known and the EU and US have been engaging in a lot of international fora on these elements. The US position is that these bilateral and multilateral fora are the place to discuss regulatory issues.

A Reuters representative asked about the TTIP maritime sector. What are the opportunities for dredging and with procurement rules, he asked?

Dan Mullaney, US Trade Negotiator said that US maritime sector experts are on hand to look at this. On the issue of government procurement, negotiations are looking to expand market access but pointed out that the US and EU agreements in Geneva last year moved this issued forward.

A journalist from Europolitics asked if progress has been made on the model for geographical indications.

Ignacio Garcia Bercero said that intellectual property questions are being looked at and whilst no harmonisation is likely to be achieved, the EU position remains to seek better protection of EU geographical indication protection in the US.

Dan Mullaney, US Trade Negotiator said that geographical indications have been discussed and continue to do so with pragmatism.

An EU trade insights representative asked if the financial services question, should regulatory cooperation has been included in the TTIP.

Dan Mullaney, US Trade Negotiator said that work is ongoing in bilateral and multilateral forum. He said that work and progress should be made in these international forum.

A MLEX journalist asked about the announcements to intensify the TTIP meetings. Does the US have the manpower to conclude TTP as well as TTIP? She asked for, with regard to renewable questions, more specific details.

Dan Mullaney, US Trade Negotiator said that TTP was not distracting from progress on TTIP. US Trade has the capacity to do both TTP and TTIP at the same time, he said. He said that the rounds were a way to allow for cross fertilisation, the real work takes place between these rounds to move the process forward. One element here, particularly in the area of sectors, is to step up progress.

Ignacio Garcia Bercero said that the concrete text phase is moving forward which means that the talks are entering a new phase. On the renewable energy issue, the one is exploratory and therefore negotiators are looking at which elements could be interesting to follow under TTIP. The connectivity to grid issues and equipment elements are being included here he said. It is clearly an issue which needs to build up and intensify.

An audience participant asked what the state of play to concern an energy chapter.

Dan Mullaney, US Trade Negotiator said that all energy and raw materials are being discussed through the negotiating rounds to facilitate trade. He said that it remained to be seen if these elements already come up in other chapters, or if they need to be looked at in a separate chapter. It will be up to “value added” to see if an energy chapter is needed.

A representative from BNA publications asked the EU representative about when public procurement offers will be exchanged. If the regulatory aspect of financial services is not included, will it continue to be excluded from the financial services chapter offer as made by the EU? The EU has a stronger stance on GMOs, and a de facto moratorium is in place whilst a relevant Commission review is underway. He asked for more specifics about this.

Ignacio Garcia Bercero said that a de facto moratorium on GMOs is not the case. There is a high level of EU ambition on public procurement issues based on national treatment understanding. The best way to move forward here is important, and speed is not the most important thing. Regarding financial services, discussions on all elements are continuing to find the best way forward.

Dan Mullaney, US Trade Negotiator said that finding the best way forward remains the aim for all parties. In terms of bio-tech, he explained that he himself has not called it a de facto moratorium. Where the EU has a scientific process for bio-tech, these should be followed. Technical barriers to trade are also being assessed. Food safety decisions should be based on science and impact assessment, he concluded.