Oct 23, 2015 - 11:30am

Picking Up the Pace in the Transatlantic Trade Talks


Senior Vice President, European Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Executive Director, U.S.-UK Business Council

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A cargo ship stands ready are at the Port Jersey Marine Terminal in New York. Photo credit: Craig Warga/Bloomberg

As U.S. and EU negotiators for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) gathered in Miami this week for their 11th round of negotiations, the message of the business community was clear: While we don’t discount the significant work that has been accomplished to this point, it’s time to pick up the pace.

The Chamber was among the earliest proponents of the TTIP, and we are proud to serve as secretariat for the Business Coalition for Transatlantic Trade (BCTT), which is comprised of companies and business associations committed to forging a more integrated transatlantic marketplace that will benefit consumers, businesses and workers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Earlier this week, EU Trade Commissioner Malmström spoke of the ongoing changes in the global economy that make TTIP so relevant and vital:

“TTIP is a way to strengthen our alliance … on economic and regulatory issues … in order to strengthen our collective global influence. We are living through a major shift in the world’s economic center of gravity. … Decisions made outside our borders are going to affect us more in the future.”

The commissioner’s message could not be more clear: The U.S. and EU must look at TTIP as perhaps our last, best chance to jointly set global standards from a position of strength.

However, two years into the negotiations, repeated expressions of political support are not translating into visible and tangible progress at the negotiating table. We urge both parties to move beyond traditional negotiating tactics and jointly taking the bold steps needed to secure a world class trade agreement.

Even as the talks continue, we are increasingly concerned by developments in Europe that run counter to the spirit of TTIP’s goals.

We are troubled, for example, by the European Commission’s recent decision to revise the investment protection regime in its international trade agreements, including TTIP. Developed against the backdrop of a public debate that has not been grounded in facts, the commission’s proposal has serious flaws in both substantive obligations and the proposed structure for settling disputes.

We understand the political challenges the commission is facing, but this proposal can only be viewed as a starting point. It will be essential for the two sides to work toward a mutually-agreeable solution on investment protection.

Similarly, the recent decision by the European Court of Justice invalidating the well-functioning and established Safe Harbor data transfer mechanism is cause for serious concern. While some might seek to discount the impact of the decision on the TTIP talks, the plain fact is that the consequences of the ECJ’s decision cast an unnecessary pall over these efforts. The commission is doing its level best to boost growth in Europe, but suspending the vital transfer of data and information across the Atlantic — and indeed to the rest of the world — is difficult to comprehend.

Tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of millions of consumers in the U.S. and Europe depend on the Internet. Seamless data flows are the lifeblood of today’s global economy. The potential implications of the ECJ decision cannot be overstated, especially if the situation lingers in limbo for months. A pragmatic solution must be urgently implemented to restore business confidence, assure end users’ access to services they use daily while ensuring that their data is protected, and, ultimately, re-establish vital trust between the EU and the United States.

On other fronts, we look forward to seeing significant progress this week in key areas like market access, services trade, regulatory cooperation and trade facilitation.

No one ever suggested this would be easy. There are real and understandable policy differences. But the fact is far more unites us than divides us.

The reasons these talks were launched are more relevant than ever: Europe and the United States need increased growth to generate the high quality jobs that export industries provide. Consumers, workers and the environment will benefit from improved outcomes when U.S. and EU regulators work together wherever possible, sharing information and setting clear and understandable rules. Transatlantic cooperation in global rule-making is needed now more than ever.

The U.S. Chamber and the Business Coalition for Transatlantic Trade remain committed to supporting an ambitious, comprehensive and high-standard TTIP agreement. Now is the time to pick up the pace as we pursue a strong deal for all our citizens.

About the Author

About the Author

Marjorie Chorlins Photo 2019
Senior Vice President, European Affairs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Executive Director, U.S.-UK Business Council

Marjorie A. Chorlins is senior vice president for European Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Executive Director of the U.S.-UK Business Council.