Green light for bilateral trade negotiations between US and EU

The European Council gave green light to the European Commission to enter into formal bilateral trade negotiations with the United States of America. With the mandate to negotiate the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal with the US, European Member States set out the objectives the Commission should follow in the negotiations on behalf of the EU.

The 3 main elements of the mandate are:

1) Market Access

  • Tariffs: Removal of nearly all duties on transatlantic trade in industrial and agricultural products.
  • Rules of origin: Reconciliation of the EU and US approaches to facilitate trade, while taking into account the interests of the EU producers.
  • Trade defence measures: The EU wants to establish a regular dialogue on anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures with the US, without prejudice to its rights to use such measures in the framework of the relevant WTO rules.
  • Services: Opening of service sectors by both sides towards new sectors, such as the transport sector. Recognition of European professional qualifications on the other side of the Atlantic and that EU companies and their subsidiaries will be able to operate in the US under the same conditions as American domestic companies.
  • Investment: Achievement of the highest levels of liberalisation and investment protection that both sides have negotiated to date in other trade deals. Guarantees of protection against expropriation, a rule of free transfer of funds, fair and equitable treatment, and a level playing field for the EU companies investing in the US.
  • Public procurement: Opening up access to government procurement markets at all levels of government without discrimination for European companies and an increase in transparency regarding tendering procedures and getting rid of local content requirements.

2) Regulatory issues and non-tariff barriers towards a more integrated transatlantic marketplace

  • Reduction of unnecessary costs (‘behind-the-border’) and delays for companies, while maintaining high levels of health, safety, consumer and environmental protection.
  • Both sides envisage a framework for a "living agreement" that allows for progressively greater regulatory convergence over time against defined targets and deadlines. This will make it possible not only to eliminate existing barriers, but also to prevent the creation of new ones in the future.

3) Addressing Shared Global Trade Challenges and Opportunities in the 21st century

  • Maintenance of high intellectual property rights, not necessarily harmonisation, but to identify a number of specific issues where divergences will be addressed. For the EU side, Geographical Indications (GIs) are of particular importance in that context.
  • Respect of social and environmental aspects of trade and sustainable development.

An economic study (MEMO/13/211) by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, London shows that EU exports to the US would go up by 28%. EU and US trade with the rest of the world would also increase by over €33 billion. If such an ambitious agreement were achieved, it is expected that every year an average European household would gain an extra €545 and the economy would be boosted by 0.5% to up to 1% of GDP, or €119 billion annually, once fully implemented.

Consumer organisations on both continents warn, however, that consumer rights should not be scarified for economic goals. The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) calls for a transparent process which does not lead to a watering down of consumer standards as official channels allow US industry to give its input throughout the negotiation process. BEUC is concerned that excluding civil society will lead to an uninformed and imbalanced outcome. Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC, commented: “Trade talks between the EU and US will affect almost every aspect of our life. Data protection, food safety or medical devices are not the sole prerogative of business and politicians.”

Gerd Billen, president of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations said: “We expect that the negotiation leads to an upwards harmonisation and not to a further round of downwards deregulation.” Delicate issues regarding consumer protection are the labelling of food products in terms of genetic modification as well as treatment of poultry with chlorine and hormone treated meat.

As soon as the US administration is ready, negotiations with the Commission can start. The launch of formal negotiations will probably take place before the summer.


Further information:


'Reducing Transatlantic Barriers to Trade and Investment: An Economic Assessment', Centre for Economic Policy Research, London and 

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

Q&A about the TTIP

Source: EU Commission