Senior European and US officials have vowed to accelerate talks on a controversial trade deal that critics say would weaken environmental and consumer standards, while giving too much power to companies to sue governments.
Negotiators from the EU and the United States confirmed they were hoping to secure agreement on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership by the end of the year. TTIP, which the EU trade commissioner once described as “the most contested acronym in Europe”, is a sweeping plan to harmonise regulatory standards, cut tariffs on thousands of items and help companies do more transatlantic business.
Talks began in July 2013, but rapidly became bogged down amid widespread public protest, with disputes breaking out over issues ranging from the French film industry to feta cheese. Now the two sides are racing to strike a deal before Barack Obama leaves presidential office in January 2017.
On Friday, the EU’s chief negotiator, Ignacio Garcia Bercero, said it was time to pick up the pace. “We are ready to seek to conclude negotiations in 2016 provided that the substance is right.” He told journalists that the latest round of negotiations – the 12th – were being extended into next week to intensify talks on sensitive areas.
His US counterpart, Dan Mullaney, said: “We still have a lot of work to do but if we can sustain our current intensified engagement we can finish negotiations this year.”
The two sides will hold two further rounds of talks in the coming months, with the aim of getting a draft deal by July, leaving the most contentious areas to be resolved in the second half of the year.
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