Top negotiators cite progress in latest T-TIP talks

By Daniel Enoch

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WASHINGTON, April 29, 2016 - Top negotiators for the U.S. and the European Union say the two sides made good progress this week as they continued efforts to complete the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Speaking in New York, where the latest round of T-TIP negotiations was held, U.S. chief negotiator Dan Mullaney cited progress in sectors including autos, pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics. He said they also continued to make progress on a key U.S. goal of tariff elimination.

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“We had agreed earlier to eliminate tariffs on 97 percent of tariff lines, and at this round, we worked to increase the number of those tariff lines that would be zeroed out upon entry into force of the agreement," Mullaney said. “In the months ahead, we will discuss elimination of the remaining tariffs, and we will seek to accelerate the pace of reductions for tariff lines we have already phased out.”

Joining Mullaney at today's press conference, EU chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero, agreed that the tariff talks had been fruitful, with great promise for the citizens on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Here consumers and companies would feel an immediate impact, as the prices of imported and exported products could fall,” he said. “Indeed, European Union firms pay over 3.5 billion euros a year in customs tariffs when exporting to the United States.” However, he said the two sides did not discuss the remaining 3 percent of tariff lines, which he said were the most sensitive.

“We still have significant work left to do,” Mullaney acknowledged, “particularly in key areas like technical regulations, standards and services."

Still, Mullaney expressed optimism that the treaty can be completed in 2016.

“We believe there remains sufficient time to complete an ambitious, comprehensive and high-standard T-TIP agreement this year, if we continue our intensive engagement and we mobilize the necessary political will, effort and determination on both sides,” he said.

The two men also suggested that President Barack Obama's visit to Germany this week had given the talks added impetus. Speaking at an industrial fair in Hanover, Obama said, “The time to complete T-TIP is now and I'm here to say that the United States is prepared to make every effort to reach an ambitious, comprehensive and high-standard agreement this year.” 

Garcia Bercero said Obama's visit to Europe “gave us a strong political boost.”

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The EU negotiator agreed that the talks could be concluded in 2016, “but only if the substance of the deal is right.”

He said the two sides are planning for another round of talks this summer, “most likely in July.”

“The objective for this round would then be to continue to work on consolidation in all areas, so that we only have a very limited number of open issues… that will ultimately need to be resolved at the political level. We need to achieve an agreement that will be the most ambitious, balanced and comprehensive agreement ever concluded by either the European Union or the United States.”

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