WASHINGTON (dpa) – European Union negotiators will enter their seventh round of free trade talks with the United States on Monday in Washington with the wind at their backs.
On Friday, leaders of the EU and Canada celebrated in Ottawa the conclusion of five years of negotiations on a separate free trade deal.
That deal – called the Comprehensive Economic and Free Trade Agreement (CETA) – still must be approved by respective Canadian and EU parliaments and jump through various legal and political hoops.
But as one of the most far-reaching trade deals in both Canadian and EU history, CETA is seen as a model for the EU-US free trade agreement.
It also provides a reality check about how long it will take for the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to be completed.
Launched in July 2013, officials had hoped to have sealed an agreement by late 2014 or early 2015, but a senior EU official has said hopes now focus on early 2016, several months before the US presidential elections.
The landmark free trade pact would create the world’s largest free-trade area with the goal of spurring growth and jobs.
But even if the deal is tied up under Barack Obama’s US presidency, it still must clear the hurdles of passage by the US Congress and EU legislature.
One of the biggest hurdles is a mechanism to settle disputes between foreign investors and national governments, which consumer groups fear could be abused by corporations.
The EU has put the so-called investor-state dispute settlement clause on hold until the eighth round of talks in November while it carries out a public consultation launched early this year. As of July, nearly 150,000 responses had been submitted, according to the EU’s chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero.
Just this week, the EU-Canada trade deal hit a bump on the same issue. Germany blew the whistle on the idea that non-state courts could rule on such disputes, demanding that the clause be removed from CETA.