Monday 22 February marked the first day of the 12th round of negotiations on the Transatlantic and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in Brussels. The proposed trade deal between the United States and the European Union has faced a number of setbacks since negotiations were first launched in July 2013, including a particularly hostile public reaction.
The negotiations will have been dominated by the controversy surrounding the deal’s provisions on investment protection known as the Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS, mechanism. This would allow foreign investors to bring lawsuits against a national government in tribunals outside the domestic legal system. In an attempt to allay criticism, EU Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström has proposed replacing ISDS with an Investment Court System which would feature independent, publicly-appointed judges and more transparent procedures. The current talks are the first time that negotiators have considered the new proposal, and Malmström’s challenge will be to try to sell it to the Americans.
Another issue that has emerged in recent weeks is the role of individual Member States in the ratification of the final agreement. France argues that TTIP should not only require the approval of the Council and European Parliament, but that all national parliaments should also have their say on the deal. While this would ensure respect for national sovereignty in the debate, it would also increase the number of potential veto players in a deal already dogged by controversy.
Nevertheless, as negotiations continue it will be crucial for the EU to effectively communicate the benefits of TTIP to its citizens. America remains the EU’s top export market and a trade deal between the two would make it easier and cheaper for European companies, particularly smaller ones, to export to and receive investment from the US. Moreover, it would generate growth in the lagging European economy and provide a sorely needed boost to job creation. Given the delay that negotiations have already suffered, or could face in the coming months, a diluted version of the original proposal, or a “TTIP lite”, may also be the only politically feasible option. This would at least mean accruing some of the benefits, rather than none at all. Regardless, the benefits of regulatory cooperation must be highlighted so that misinformation does not lead Europeans to discount the enormous value of a closer economic partnership with America.