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TTIP will not be ready in 2015, Trade Commissioner admits

A final Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement will not be ready by the end of 2015, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström admitted on 25 March, despite EU leaders announcing last week they would be making “every effort” to conclude the talks by end of December.

Asked by EU Trade Insights during an interview whether the 2015 deadline was realistic, Malmström answered: “that it will be done? No. It will not be a ready deal to show to the public in 2015”.

The Commission is however “really working towards having an agreement under the Obama administration”, the EU Trade Chief said, noting this means “that we need to have a sort of political skeleton by the end of the year”. But “to have a final final version in December, no. That is not realistic”, she bluntly affirmed.

Her words were echoed by Latvia’s Foreign Minister Edgar Rinkevics following the Trade Informal Council taking place in Riga. He explained that the TTIP negotiations should not be postponed or prolonged, but they “won’t be concluded this year”. The “will is there, but an understanding is there also that this might take longer”, he noted.

Next steps

While the Commission does not expect to have a final deal this year, the plan is to make as much progress as possible before the summer break. “We’ll try to have everything on the table, swamping through all the technicalities, so that in September, after the summer, we can really start with the political beginning of the end game”, Malmström said.

“We are advancing, but it is difficult. It is really really difficult”, she conceded, adding that the two sides had high expectations for a future TTIP, but at the same time each had their own limits on what could be achieved.

On services, the Commissioner confirmed that the EU and the US had agreed to submit new offers before the tenth round of negotiations in July. “We are trying to explore different ways, different architectures, how we can work with this. Negative, positive list; how we can combine them”, she noted.

The initial EU market access offer for services in TTIP was based on a positive list approach. But the Commissioner hinted the EU could be submitting an updated offer based on a negative list approach.

“We have usually positive lists. That is what we have with Korea”, Malmström explained. However, “we had a negative list with Canada. So it depends what we get in exchange”, she added.

The Trade Chief did not however define what the Commission could be wanting in exchange of said negative list, although one can expect it would be to receive positive signals from the US side that they are ready to discuss financial services regulatory cooperation.

Trade Ministers are set to meet again in Brussels on 7 May for a formal Trade Council. The main issue on the agenda will most likely be the TTIP, Rinkevics told this website.