The TTIP in troubled waters, will it come?

TTIP discussions and negoitiations do not seem to be getting any clearer

The TTIP will come? According to backstage negotiations unveiled on Monday the free trade agreement between Americans and Europeans is still a distant horizon …. 

The TTIP will come? According backstage negotiations unveiled Monday the free trade agreement between Americans and Europeans is still a distant horizon as skepticism grows on both sides of the Atlantic.

Committed thorny trade talks since mid-2013, Brussels and Washington have quickly tried to minimize the scope of documents disclosed by Greenpeace, lamenting a “misunderstanding” and denouncing interpretations “erroneous” based on outdated texts.

But the fact is that despite the voluntarism of US President Barack Obama, who hopes to complete by the discussions at the end of the year a success seems less acquired.

“The most striking of these leaks is not specific content but the fact that both parties are still very far from each other in the negotiations and that the central issues remain unresolved,” says to AFP Edward Alden, the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank in Washington.

With TTIP, also called Tafta, the EU and the US want to eliminate their tariff and regulatory barriers, but the subjects of disagreement abound, both on the opening of markets on the precautionary principle and the modalities protection mechanism for investors wanted by Washington.

After their 13th round of discussions last week, negotiators from both blocs, as usual, boasted a “constructive” dialogue and progress, but some irritation European side pointing to the US refusal to open competitive government procurement, especially local.

“We must achieve the same level of progress in access to bidding on tariffs and services in order to bring the negotiations to an end,” said Ignacio Garcia Bercero was the chief negotiator of the Commission European.

Elections to risk

Time is counted, however. Ardent defender of TTIP, President Obama leaves the White House in January, and his successor, who will be elected in November, could be less inclined to promote free trade, become a real political scarecrow in the United States.

The situation is not much open in Europe. “If no agreement can be reached under the Obama administration, future progress will probably wait for the various elections in Europe in 2017,” says AFP Mark Wu, Harvard law professor and former executive of the Representation American foreign trade (USTR).

Next year, general elections will thus be held in the two main European powers, Germany and France, where the debate on the TTIP is the liveliest and could engulf the countryside.

Skepticism seems to have already won the French leaders, which bodes ill for a clearing in the negotiations. In the space of a week, Prime Minister Manuel Valls and President Francois Hollande have clamped down and promised to oppose an agreement in the absence of “guarantees” on the environment or agriculture.

Berlin has also stepped into the breach, predicting a “failure” of the negotiations if the United States did not make more concessions. And the possible exit of Britain from the EU, which will be decided in a referendum on June 23 does not help.

“It’s a huge time uncertainty for trade policy in the United States and Europe,” says Alden.

Leaks delivered by Greenpeace may also stiffen even more positions, particularly in civil society. “It will be more complicated to try to iron out differences” between the two camps, Mr. Wu predicted.

In the wake of their European counterparts, the US environmental organization Sierra Club has in fact criticized an agreement that will in “the wrong direction of history” and the NGO Public Citizen saw leaks confirmation of “enormous power” given to multinationals.

This is not the first snag encountered by the TTIP, who had already suffered in 2014 revelations about the widespread spying for the US NSA in Europe.

But this obstacle appears larger and could lead to scale back the ambitions of the Treaty, even if Washington and Brussels say they are opposed to a TTIP “cheap”.

“Both sides will always prefer a TTIP + light + to complete failure,” predicts Mr. Alden.

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