The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership -- commonly known as T-TIP -- is one of the major focuses of our work here at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. While the transatlantic relationship between the United States and the EU is certainly far broader, dealing with a very wide array of foreign policy, security, humanitarian, and economic issues of mutual interest around the globe, T-TIP is a fitting topic for the first entry for our mission's new blog. We just completed the fourth round of negotiations last week, and it, along with the ongoing situation in Ukraine, consumed most of our attention. Not only did many colleagues from Washington come to town, but we also held events for a group of visiting economic journalists from EU member states with representatives of consumer groups, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and others.
Having worked on the negotiating teams for many free trade agreements in the past, I was impressed to see the expansion of possibilities for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), consumer groups, and other members of civil society to interact with the negotiators themselves, not only between rounds, but also during them. This highlights, as U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said last month, that both the United States and the EU agree "on the important role the public has in continuing to shape our negotiations’ objectives."
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East Dan Mullaney and EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero participate in a press conference at the conclusion of the fourth round of T-TIP negotiations in Brussels, Belgium, March 14, 2014. [USEU photo/ Public Domain]
For anyone who follows the transatlantic relationship, the buzzword last week was T-TIP. Scores of negotiators from the United States and EU were in town for the fourth round of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but they weren’t the only ones. Hundreds of our citizens -- from environmental, consumer and other non-governmental organizations, from labor unions, companies and academia, the media and others -- also converged on Brussels for a stakeholder event that was held Wednesday.
Some 90 participants detailed their T-TIP views and expectations on a wide array of subjects. Stakeholder events have become a staple of each T-TIP round, whether they’re held in Washington or Brussels. In the front rows -- some in spaces with standing room only -- this time around were the two chief negotiators, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe and the Middle East Dan Mullaney and EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero, and/or members of their teams, asking the presenters direct questions.
Many of the speakers at Wednesday’s event -- and at an EPC think tank panel the day before on how T-TIP could help small businesses benefit from global trade -- echoed common themes. In particular, T-TIP should eliminate unnecessary and duplicative regulations while ensuring high, uniform standards, they said. The round ended on Friday with a press conference by the two chief negotiators.
U.S. Trade Representative Froman released a statement on the conclusion of the fourth round, which I encourage you to read. You can also read a joint document on potential opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises and find more information here for a detailed view on what the United States is looking to achieve in T-TIP.
About the Author: James Wolfe serves as spokesperson at the U.S. Mission to the European Union.