In listing the most discussed EU policy areas of 2015, the TTIP would certainly feature among the most talked about, if not being the most talked about. This is why CESI was pleased to close the year with Anthony L. Gardner, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, speaking to members about the trade agreement.
CESI focused on the areas where affiliates are most affected: the possibility of the Investor State Dispute Settlement, transparency, the rights of workers and the protection of public services. On this last point, the U.S. Ambassador underlined the need for the growth potential which TTIP will bring to ensure public services can be properly financed. A similar argument applies to be able to guarantee good levels of social protection – the necessary conditions for growth are crucial, otherwise new avenues must be explored, such as with TTIP. Studies estimate the growth potential for the EU stands at 0.5% GNP.
Ambassador Gardner continued to describe the potential benefits to consumers of establishing free trade. Consumer costs will be reduced and production will be simpler for businesses looking to export. The Ambassador also made it clear that from the point of view of the U.S, there is no intention of interfering into how public services operate. Collective bargaining and other tools for protecting the rights of workers will also be preserved. On labour protection the U.S Ambassador said “This negotiation is an historic opportunity to set rules with a high level of labour protection before emerging markets do it for us at a lower level. TTIP is a chance to offer a model for global trading rules”.
While the U.S. tried to reassure CESI that it was also highly concerned about worker’s rights in its own approach to negotiating free trade agreements, CESI members were clear in asking for trust to be re-established. CESI also continues to call for the exclusion of ISDS from the negotiations. The European Commission will publish the results of the public consultation on ISDS in 2015. The principle of non-discrimination of investors and the protection of worker’s rights remain equally priority issues for CESI. Transparency of negotiations, in particular from the European Commission, remains a crucial element for rebuilding trust. On this, the Ambassador Gardner said, “I do not think there is a lack of transparency in these negotiations but lack of consensus. We have probably not done enough to convince citizens”, adding that “a lot of work on this is still to be done”.
CESI welcomes the approach of the U.S. Ambassador in exchanging frank and open words with social partners in an attempt to address concerns and debunk myths. The European Commission, in particular the new Commissioner for Trade, would do well to follow the example set by the U.S in engaging all social partners.