TTIP : The United States have to be patient

Alain-Patrick Umucyo By Alain-Patrick Umucyo, 6th Jan 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>News>World

Almost one year since President Obama announced that the United States and the European Union would start "talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership" (TTIP) "because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.” Only three rounds of negotiations so far and few prospects of seeing any significant progress in 2014. The example of the CETA between the EU and Canada should impel the US to patience.

The alluring announcement

On the evening of 12 February 2013, the President of the United States of America delivers his speech on the State of the Union. This moment is not only an occasion to outline the situation of the nation but it is also an opportunity to introduce the main aspects of the forthcoming legislative agenda. Barack Obama chooses that moment to reveal a future agreement with the European Union : “And tonight, I'm announcing that we will launch talks on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union, because trade that is fair and free across the Atlantic supports millions of good-paying American jobs.”1

The United States’ Constitution requires the President to inform of the State of the Union “from time to time”.2 It is traditional though that he delivers his address once a year. So Barack Obama based a prospective embellishment for 2013 on what was then forthcoming negotiations on an agreement with the European Union. That reveals how unable he was to deal efficiently with the eroding employment market. Moreover, that was misleading because the agreement he was talking about is yet to be concluded and it will certainly not be under his presidency.

The reality

In 2013, the United States and the European Union completed three rounds of negotiations related to the T-TIP.3 At a press conference following the third round, Dan Mullaney, chief US negotiator, stressed that the parties “don’t have a timetable”.4 This exemplifies how fragile and lengthy the negotiations are set to be. It highlights furthermore the US President’s powerlessness as he delivered his State of the Union address. Nonetheless, a hint at how these T-TIP negotiations might evolve is given by some recently closed discussions between the EU and Canada.5

Since may 2009, the European Union and Canada have been preparing a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Initially scheduled to last two years, the negotiations stretched until 2013. They encountered a series of specific interests put forth on each side. The Canadian side occasioned the first prominent difficulties. Confronted with the opaqueness of the discussions, some municipalities, such as Toronto and Montreal, expressed concerns about the CETA requiring them to buy in the EU instead of in their jurisdiction. That could have tremendously reduced their prerogatives in sustaining the local economy.6 Their worries had been focused by the Réseau Québécois sur l’Intégration Continentale which “since 2010 has set the Comprehensive Economic and trade Agreement (CETA) at the core of its engagement”.7 To appease tensions “Harper government sent many of its ministers into virtually all Canada's provinces (they) were mandated to promote the project of agreement on which the business sphere lays much hope”.8 To this contentious episode succeeded a delaying discord between the EU and Canada on agriculture.9 Though the negotiations are now completed, there is still a long way to go as the “legal scrubbing of the text” has only just started.10

The Government of Canada's website describes the CETA as “by far, Canada's most ambitious trade initiative. Indeed, it is deeper in ambition and broader in scope than the historic North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).”11 In the same manner, the European Commission's website states that the T-TIP “ would be the biggest trade deal in the world”.12 Moreover, most of the contentious issues encountered by Canada and the European Union on the way to the conclusion of the CETA will arise during the T-TIP negotiations. A clear agreement on some specific commodities will need to overcome some indomitable positions, lobbies from European and American agricultural firms being already prepared. Most importantly, the CETA will be “the first free trade agreement between the European Union and a G8 country”.13 The process that will lead to its adoption will therefore be a model for other grand agreements especially for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. At this stage, it seems highly improbable that four years will suffice to conclude this Partnership. The United States have to be patient.

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1 ‘Transcipt of Obama’s State of the Union address’ (Fox News,12 February 2013) <> accessed 06 January 2014
2 US Const art II, § 3
3 ‘Statement by U.S. Trade Representative Froman on the Conclusion of the Third Round of T-TIP Negotiations’ (Office of the United States Trade Representative, 20 December 2013) <> accessed 06 January 2014
4 Transcript : Chief negotiators Dan Mullaney and Ignacio Garcia Bercero Hold a Press Conference Following the Third Round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) Talks, Department of State (Washington DC, 20 December 2013) <> accessed 06 January 2014
5 ‘EU and Canada strike free trade deal’ (Press release European Commission, 18 October 2013) <> accessed 29 December 2013
6 ‘Classe économique’ (program of 09 march 2012 starting at 23min55, Radio Canada) <> accessed 29 December 2013
7 « depuis 2010 (…) a fait de l’Accord de libre-échange entre le Canada et l’Union européenne (AÉCG) son principal cheval de bataille.»
‘Le RQIC’ ( <> accessed 06 January 2014
8 Jean-Sébastien Bernatchez, 'Classe économique' (program of 27 April 2012 starting at 14min38, Radio Canada) <> accessed 06 January 2014
9 with Reuters, 'EU-Canada trade deal delayed by agriculture spat' ( 06 February 2013) <> accessed 29 December 2013
10 European Commission, 'Trade negotiations step by step' (DG Trade, September 2013) 5 < > accessed 06 January 2014
11 'Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)' (Government of Canada) < > accessed 06 January 2014
12 'United States' (European Commission) <> accessed 06 January 2014
13 ‘EU and Canada strike free trade deal’ (Press release European Commission 18 October 2013) <> accessed 06 January 2014

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