[Ενημέρωση για το 12ο γύρο στη Γερμανική γλώσσα ΕΔΩ]
-----------Is TTIP in crisis?
by Bernd Riegert
The free trade negotiations between the EU and the US in Brussels this week are not going well. This time the Americans are dragging their feet, and there’s talk of a trimmed-down version of TTIP.
Aside from the actual negotiators, Bernd Lange is one of the few who has access to the secret documents of the free trade negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the USA. It is fair to say that Lange is well informed. He chairs the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee and is the official rapporteur for the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
This week, the 12th round of negotiations is taking place in Brussels. Lange, a Social Democrat from the German state of Lower Saxony, believes the talks are not making much headway. Of the 25 chapters up for negotiation, the Americans have taken a clear position on less than half, Lange told DW.
"TTIP is in crisis," he said. "But only one of the negotiating partners is sick: the United States. They clearly have to step up their efforts and make a move towards the Europeans."
That is not how US Trade Representative Michael Froman sees it. "We have made good progress in the past six months," he said ahead of new negotiations on Monday.
The disagreement is likely to continue as they have yet to tackle some of the most contentious issues. For instance, where and how should investors settle disputes with states? Which industry standards will apply, for example in mechanical engineering? And what are the procedures for transatlantic public procurement? All these problems have yet to be solved.
Running out of time
Negotiations are currently in what insiders call the "middle game." First, the uncontroversial topics are dealt with, while tough issues are put off.
But for TTIP expert Bernd Lange, this is a risky strategy. Negotiators are running out of time, he warned. They have until July to produce a so-called consolidated text. If they miss that deadline, closing the deal before US President Barack Obama leaves office will be nearly impossible, Lange predicted.
Again, US Trade Representative Michael Fromann disagreed, arguing that a deal could be reached with or without Obama.
But pulling that off would require a lot of luck, said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström: "It will not be easy."
In fact, with the US elections looming on the horizon, the situation is only likely to get worse, cautioned Lange. If the increasingly nationalistic Republicans get the upper hand following the November vote, they are likely to block new free trade agreements. If Democrats win, things won’t necessarily look up either. Many in the party are skeptical of free trade and worry about investor protection and workers’ rights. There is no time to lose, Lange said.