Tuesday 27 September 2016

TTIP remains on table, insists Europe's man in Washington

Published 30/08/2016 | 02:30

EU ambassador to the US David O'Sullivan
EU ambassador to the US David O'Sullivan

The controversial European/ US free trade deal is still being negotiated and will happen, the European Union's most senior diplomat to Washington has insisted.

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The view of EU ambassador to the US David O'Sullivan contradicts weekend comments by German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel, who effectively said the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal was dead in the water.

The Germany economy minister said the talks had "de facto failed" because Europe rejected some US demands.

However, in Dublin yesterday at an Institute of International and Economic Affairs event, David O'Sullivan rejected that view.

"We are continuing to work to see if this can be concluded this year with this (Obama) Administration," David O'Sullivan said. Even if that timeline slips a deal will eventually be agreed, he said.

"I do believe this deal will be done. It needs to be done," Ambassador O'Sullivan said.

He rejected suggestions that a deal with the US would lead to lower standards in Europe, including in relation to food - a key stumbling block.

Politicians in the EU and the US would still set their own standards after any deal, he said. In Brussels, the European Commission also insisted that a trade deal is still on the table.

A Commission spokesman said yesterday that it had a unanimous mandate from the bloc's 28 members to finalise negotiations on a free trade deal with the United States.

Asked to comment on Sigmar Gabriel's remarks, a European Commission spokesman said "the ball is still rolling" on TTIP.

"Although trade talks take time, the ball is rolling right now and the Commission is making steady progress in the ongoing TTIP negotiations," Margaritis Schinas told a news conference.

"Talks are now indeed entering crucial stage as we have proposals for almost all chapters on the table and a good sense of the outline of the future agreement."

Three years of negotiations failed to resolve multiple differences, including over food and environmental safety, with critics saying the pact would hand too much power to big multinationals at the expense of consumers and workers.

Backers of a sweeping US-EU free trade deal believe it will bringing economic gains on both sides of the Atlantic.

EU trade ministers will discuss the issue when they next meet, in Bratislava, on September 22.

Ms Schinas said the Commission was still ready to finalise the deal by the end of the year but not at the expense of "Europe's safety, health, social and data protection standards, or our cultural diversity".

Britain's June vote to leave the EU has further clouded the picture, though Ms Schinas insisted that Brussels was still negotiating on behalf of all 28 members of the bloc, including London.

But the prospect of a Brexit has triggered fresh doubt that TTIP could be completed in the final months of US President Barack Obama's term, as well as over Britain's exact status in any deal as London ponders its future ties with the EU.

Irish Independent

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