muscling in E.U. Keen to Retain Influence in Trade Treaty

As the European parliament's trade committee votes on resolutions for the trans-Atlantic trade agreement, the E.U. seeks a stronger role in implementing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and beyond.
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The European Parliament is underscoring its authority.

It wants to be involved in shaping the exchange of goods and services between Europe and the United States after the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement is signed and is likely to demand creation of a permanent parliamentary committee to monitor the implementation of the deal.

“Whoever has been following the debate knows that it can make sense to maintain a certain capability to have influence,” said Bernd Lange, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and chairman of the International Trade committee in parliament.

Opposition in the U.S. is growing in, of all places, among the president’s own Democratic Party.

Mr. Lange is the initiator of a resolution, which calls for monitoring the implementation of the free trade agreement. On Thursday, the trade committee will vote on the resolution. Its recommendations will feed into the vote by the plenary in June.

Since negotiations began two years ago, opposition to the trans-Atlantic trade agreeement has grown steadily in Europe.

Critics fear a decline in proven E.U. standards in food safety, labor and environmental protection. Additionally, clauses on private investor-state dispute settlements (ISDS) and planned cooperation in future regulatory issues are generating worry as critics assert they could undermine the legislative powers of governments and parliaments.

A majority of the representatives plan to prevent this with the resolution. After all, the parliament does carry weight and must agree to every E.U. trade agreement.

Public procurement is another issue of contentment. Washington has demonstrated no willingness to compromise on this aspect.

Europe wants to open protected markets including on the state level in the United States, but since they don’t sit at the negotiating table, the Americans are blocking it. “Procurement is more likely to be a deal-breaker than arbitration,” Mr. Lange said.


Trans-Atlantic Trade Talks3-01 TTIP citizens view


An initiative by the European Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, would reform the arbitration clauses by instituting transparent proceedings, ensuring publicly appointed judges and offering possibility of appeals.

The measure also would use TTIP to establish a commercial tribunal in the medium-term, an option favored by members of parliament who are not in fundamental opposition to the TTIP, such as the Greens and parties on the far left and right.

Arbitration courts, environmental protection and work standards are all part of the debate raging in America, where issues parallel those in Europe.

It’s still unknown if President Barack Obama will receive the negotiating mandate for his ambitious agenda. In addition to TTIP, he also is also shooting for another free trade zone through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Opposition in the United States is growing in, of all places, among the president’s own Democratic Party. Although the Senate passed the controversial free trade mandate -- a victory for Mr. Obama, who hasn’t weighed in on much legislation since his healthcare reforms -- the House of Representatives still must give its approval.

An alliance is forming in the House between left-wing Democrats, who fear wage dumping, and ultra-conservative Republicans, who accuse the president of using an “imperial” political style and don’t want to give him even more power.


Thomas Ludwig is one of Handelsblatt's European Union correspondents in Brussels, Moritz Koch is Handelsblatt's correspondent in Washington. To contact the authors: [email protected][email protected]