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March 12 — Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations are making progress on the issues of regulatory cooperation, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and rules, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said as she looked forward to meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.
During a March 12 speech at the Bruegel TTIP workshop in Brussels, Malmstroem said she and Froman will meet in Brussels in “just over a week” and in Washington in May. She did not release exact dates of the meetings.
TTIP negotiators met in Brussels Feb. 2-6 following an earlier call for a fresh start to the negotiations, which began in July 2013 and hit early snags over market access issues.
According to a text of her remarks, Malmstroem voiced confidence that the parties would achieve a “very high level outcome” on a market access. “It's just a matter of time,” she added.
Discussions on regulatory cooperation reached a milestone in the last round with both sides now having proposals on the table, Malmstroem said. The U.S. is examining the EU proposal that covers good regulatory practices and ways of encouraging regulators to work together, including through a regulatory cooperation body. The proposal will be discussed again in the next negotiating round in April, she said.
Negotiators also are making headway in talk on sectoral regulatory issues, such as car safety, medicines, medical devices, clothing, cosmetics and machinery, Malmstroem said, as well as on the rules part of the deal. Negotiators aim to establish disciplines that would be starting points for future negotiations on global rules regarding trade facilitation, intellectual property, rules of origin and energy and raw materials, she said.
And TTIP negotiators are making progress on the chapter on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to Malmstroem. Both sides agree on the need for a dedicated SME chapter, and Malmstroem advocated more EU-US joint government outreach to the SME community and the provision of clear rules and regulations for SMEs via a comprehensive website.
Both parties agree on the need for strong rules on labor rights and environmental rules and have discussed how to implement these, Malmstroem said.
Negotiators during the last round also discussed market access for goods, services and public procurement where the parties now “have a much clearer sense of our priorities and sensitivities.” .
The EU has responded to concerns about transparency in the negotiations, she said, referring to the European Commission's recent adoption of measures to boost transparency in the negotiating process, in part by publishing certain documents online.
Malmstroem suggested that more may need to be done. “[W]e probably have reached the limits of what the EU can do on its own,” she said. As talks move ahead, “we may decide, together with the U.S., to do more,” she said.
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The speech is available at http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2015/march/tradoc_153214.pdf.
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