TTIP talks 'could be completed before the end of 2016'

Negotiators on a planned transatlantic trade pact between Europe and the United States insisted yesterday that, despite the setbacks and criticism, they could still complete their talks by early 2017 – before Barack Obama steps down as US President.

“We still have a long way to go, but if we can sustain our current intensified engagements, we can finish our negotiations by the end of the year,” the US’s chief negotiator Dan Mullaney said after 12th round of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in Brussels. 

He was echoed by chief EU Negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero, who said: “We are ready to seek to conclude negotiations in 2016, provided the substance is right.”

TTIP could create the world’s largest free-trade zone and result in several million export-dependent new jobs. The talks cover not just tariffs and market access but measures to accept each others’ regulatory standards.

The TTIP talks started two years ago, but have faced fierce attacks by campaigners for being secretive, ignoring social and environmental concerns, and for only serving big businesses. Both sides have denied the criticisms.

The US and Europe have yet to agree on important areas such as regulatory co-operation and public procurement. There are also concerns over provisions allowing foreign investors to sue governments if they allegedly harm their investments. 

However, MEPs say the proposed year-end deadline is fanciful. Christofer Fjellner, a Swedish conservative politician, said: “I fear that in five years time, after the 54th round, people will be asking the same question: where are we now?”

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