The free trade negotiations between the European Union and the United States have failed, but “nobody is really admitting it”, Germany's Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has said.
Talks over the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, also known as TTIP, have made little progress in recent years.
The 14th round of negotiations between American and EU officials took place in Brussels in July. It was the third round in six months.
At the time, the talks were thought to be in trouble after a number of leading European politicians expressed concern about TTIP’s effects and the US’s reluctance to accept changes to the proposed deal.
In May, cracks emerged when France threatened to block the deal.
President Hollande said he would "never accept" the deal in its current guise because of the rules it enforces on France and the rest of Europe – particularly in relation to farming and culture – claiming they are too friendly to US businesses.
“We will never accept questioning essential principles for our agriculture, our culture and for the reciprocity of access to public [procurement] markets,” Mr Hollande is reported as saying at a meeting of left-wing politicians in Paris. “At this stage [of the talks] France says, ‘No'.”
Speaking on Sunday, Mr Gabriel, who is also Germany’s Economy Minister, said: “In my opinion, the negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it."
The 6 reasons why we should be scared of TTIP
The 6 reasons why we should be scared of TTIP
1/6 The NHS
Public services, especially the NHS, are in the firing line. One of the main aims of TTIP is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could essentially mean the privatisation of the NHS. The European Commission has claimed that public services will be kept out of TTIP. However, according to the Huffington Post, the UK Trade Minister Lord Livingston has admitted that talks about the NHS were still on the table
2/6 Food and environmental safety
TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients. By contrast, the EU allows virtually no GM foods. The US also has far laxer restrictions on the use of pesticides. It also uses growth hormones in its beef which are restricted in Europe due to links to cancer. US farmers have tried to have these restrictions lifted repeatedly in the past through the World Trade Organisation and it is likely that they will use TTIP to do so again
3/6 Banking regulations
TTIP cuts both ways. The UK, under the influence of the all-powerful City of London, is thought to be seeking a loosening of US banking regulations. America’s financial rules are tougher than ours. They were put into place after the financial crisis to directly curb the powers of bankers and avoid a similar crisis happening again. TTIP, it is feared, will remove those restrictions, effectively handing all those powers back to the bankers
Remember ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)? It was thrown out by a massive majority in the European Parliament in 2012 after a huge public backlash against what was rightly seen as an attack on individual privacy where internet service providers would be required to monitor people’s online activity. Well, it’s feared that TTIP could be bringing back ACTA’s central elements, proving that if the democratic approach doesn’t work, there’s always the back door. An easing of data privacy laws and a restriction of public access to pharmaceutical companies’ clinical trials are also thought to be on the cards
The EU has admitted that TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower. It has even advised EU members to draw on European support funds to compensate for the expected unemployment. Examples from other similar bi-lateral trade agreements around the world support the case for job losses. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico caused the loss of one million US jobs over 12 years, instead of the hundreds of thousands of extra that were promised
Dave Thompson/Getty Images
TTIP’s biggest threat to society is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments
He said that during the talks neither side had agreed on a single common chapter out of the 27 being deliberated.
He further denounced the TTIP negotiations, saying the free trade deal proposed between the EU and Canada – the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) – was fairer for all parties.
Critics say one of the main concerns with TTIP is that it could allow multinational corporations to effectively “sue” governments for taking actions that might damage their businesses.
They claim US companies might be able to avoid having to meet various EU health, safety and environment regulations by challenging them in a quasi-court set up to resolve disputes between investors and states.
The UK was seen as one of the strongest supporters of TTIP in the EU, so its departure following the Brexit vote would remove one of the US's closest allies in the talks.
Last month, Nick Dearden of campaign group Global Justice Now, said: “The TTIP negotiations were already on pretty shaky ground before the EU referendum, and now the shockwaves of Brexit are threatening to derail the deal entirely.”
“With senior political figures from France and Italy signalling that the deal is dead in the water, surely it’s time for Cecilia Malmström [EU trade commissioner] to call time on this failed corporate coup.
“The toxic trade deals being pushed by Brussels would only benefit tiny financial elites, while the ordinary people of the EU would be stripped of legal protections of labour rights, consumer standards and public services.
“If the EU is going to prevent further disintegration after Brexit, it needs to stop prioritising corporate power grabs and start addressing issues such as rising inequality and social exclusion.”
Leading opposition figures in the UK have previously said they are worried about the effect TTIP could have on the NHS.
In October last year Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, Nigel Farage and Natalie Bennett all signed an appeal urging the NHS to be exempt from the deal.
Campaigners have said previously that the UK may end up with “TTIP on steroids” if it does leave the EU.
They have also warned against the controversial TTIP trade deal with the US, fearing the UK will negotiate an “even more disastrous” agreement after it leaves the EU.
Additional reporting by Associated Press
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