TTIP Negotiations: Caught between Myth and Reality?

EUROPE - May 28, 2015

The 27th of May 2015, CIDOB, in collaboration with the United States Consulate General in Barcelona and the support of the Europe for Citizens program, organized a seminar about the TTIP coordinated by Dr. Sangeeta Khorana from Bournemouth University. Jordi Bacaria, director of CIDOB, was the first to take the floor to highlight the strategic importance of the TTIP for the EU and the US and to welcome the participants.


The session opened with a key-note speech from Mr. Shaun Donnelly, Vice President of Investment and Financial Services of the United States Council for International Business (USCIB). Mr. Donnelly expressed the point of view of the US. He remarked that there is need to negotiate a high standard agreement without leaving anything outside the table or the effort is not worth it. In his opinion, the TTIP is still in the early stages of the negotiation and they are being difficult because both the US and the EU are used to be in charge. He also highlighted that the reason of the agreement is growth and jobs but it is not politically viable for Europe to demand European standards in all the issues although he affirmed that the TTIP is not about lowering standards. He also defended the need to have arbitration for protecting investments and gave the arguments that normally governments win; and that letting national justice to settle disputes between governments and investors would be the same as having a football match between two countries and have a referee of any of the two countries; normally the referee is from a third country to have neutrality. Finally, Mr. Donnelly defended that small and medium size companies will benefit more from the agreement than big companies; and that TTIP will allow the EU and the US to set global standards in the 21st Century. 

After the key-note speech, the first panel was about the main novelties of the TTIP. The panel was moderated by Xavier Mas de Xaxàs, journalist from La Vanguardia. The first intervention was in charge of Álvaro Schweinfurth, CEOE’s Deputy Director of the Foreign Policy and Multilateral Relations Department. He discussed the impact of the TTIP on competitiveness and innovation arguing that the agreement could be both: an adrenalin boost for jobs and growth in countries, like Spain for instance, where that is much needed; and an opportunity to cooperate for future technology. Then followed Professor Christian Teitje from Halle University on the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which is the most controversial aspect of the TTIP. He touched on issues identified under the TTIP: the protection of the right to regulate; the establishment and functioning of arbitral tribunals; the relationship between domestic judicial systems and ISDS; and the review of ISDS decisions through an appellate mechanism. Dr. Richard Craven from Northumbria University was the next panelist. He touched the issue of public procurement highlighting that the EU and the US have incredibly complex systems underpinned by different objectives and limited openness; leaving the possibility for the TTIP to go beyond the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) in terms of scope and coverage. Similarly, Gregory Voss from the Toulouse Business School talked about furthering the Digital European Agenda in public procurement. He argued that the TTIP could mean the creation of an e-procurement platform to deal with issues like security, privacy and confidentiality. The last speaker of this panel was Lorand Bartels from University of Cambridge. He talked about EU’s approach to social standards and TTIP. He explained that the Human Rights clause, included in Free Trade Agreements (FTA) signed by the EU, may become a problem when the other part is the US which is not a developing country. There should be solutions to sort this out with the problem for the EU to set a precedent. 

Next panel was moderated by Cristina Manzano, Editor-in-Chief of ESGlobal. It was opened by Lars Nilsson, Deputy Head of the Chief Economist and Trade Analysis Unit from the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission. He defended the Commission’s position, answered back the critics of the lack of transparency and democracy in the elaboration of the TTIP and highlighted the benefits the TTIP will have for the EU but also for third-countries when reducing regulatory barriers. Then followed Inmaculada Martínez-Zarzoso from the Georg-August Universitaet Goettingen. She talked about labor provisions. The US has lower standards in labor provisions than the EU and the TTIP is an opportunity to balance labor standards on the top if this issue is included in the negotiations. Finally, Ricard Bellera, Secretary for International Affairs, Migration and Cooperation of Comisiones Obreras of Catalonia (CCOO), positioned himself against the TTIP highlighting that the EU still has to deepen in its internal market; and that EU is not cohesive enough to withstand an agreement of such characteristics, especially taken into account that countries as Spain does not invest enough in innovation as other countries in the EU do. 

After the end of the second panel, Dr. Sangeeta Khorana rounded up the conclusions of the intense sessions and closed the seminar.