French Official Unhappy with U.S. TTIP Positions

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By Rick Mitchell

May 11 — The European Union’s trade agreement with Canada is the anti-Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) because Canada has recognized key French concerns in those negotiations, while the U.S. has yet to do the same in trans-Atlantic trade talks with the EU, France's top trade official told Parliament.

French Secretary of State for External Trade Matthias Fekl told the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, May 11 as part of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), that Canada made a “strong recognition” of French agriculture and geographical indications.

Canada’s public markets will also be “largely open” to EU companies because of the agreement, and France already exports 3 billion euros ($3.43 billion) in products and 2.5 billion euros ($2.86 billion) in services to the country, Fekl said.

France Calls it `TAFTA.'

In France, the TTIP talks process is commonly called the “TAFTA,” in part to link it with some criticism attached to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.

Fekl was answering a question by National Assembly Deputy Jean-Noel Carpentier, a member of the Assembly’s committee on cultural and educational affairs. Carpentier expressed concerns about TTIP and what he called its “twin brother,” CETA, for which negotiations concluded 18 months ago.

The European Council of member state trade officials is due to meet May 13 in Brussels to consider implementation of the CETA and other trade matters.

Carpentier said the French public suspects TTIP will “benefit the interests of large multinationals, to the detriment of countries, and even worse, of the people. We are told it could even create special courts to challenge public policies. Mr. Minister, in what sauce are we going to be eaten?” he asked Fekl.

Fekl and French President Francois Hollande recently cast doubt on the viability of further TTIP talks, given revelations in documents leaked by Greenpeace, and given what Fekl has described as the U.S.'s refusal to budge on French concerns about agriculture, geographic indications, financial services, and market access to open U.S. public markets to French companies (86 ITD, 5/4/16).

ISDS Worry

Fekl has also frequently discussed U.S. insistence on including an investor state dispute settlement system (ISDS) in the TTIP agreement, a measure that faced strong public resistance in France and elsewhere in Europe.

By contrast, Fekl told Parliament that Canada is the first EU trade partner to formally accept “the French proposal for an international court of justice for trade.” Germany has also called for TTIP to include the alternative, which would have a standing list of judges as well as an appellate mechanism.

Carpentier said it “now looks like the TAFTA has lead in its wings, and so much the better,” but he said the EU is pushing for rapid, provisional implementation of the CETA, before member state parliaments have ratified it and, “that is un-democratic.”

`Mixed Treaty.'

Fekl said not to worry, that France and all other EU member states consider the CETA a “mixed treaty,” meaning that it must be ratified by all member states as well as by the European Parliament to take effect. He said the European Commission has not expressed its own position on the matter, but as a member of the Commission, France will be pushing its views on the subject.

Only CETA measures that have an EU-wide effect can be implemented provisionally, and only after approval by the European Parliament, with full “validation” to come after all EU member states have voted, he said. Fekl has previously said the TTIP would also be a mixed treaty and would require approval by all EU member states to take effect.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor on this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com