This month saw significant activity in United States-European Union relations, including some movement in the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations and other events indirectly impacting key TTIP issues.  TTIP negotiations were launched in July 2013, but many who have been involved in the talks or following them closely – particularly on the EU side – have complained that TTIP has taken a back seat to the Trans-Pacific Partnership  (TPP) discussions between the U.S. and 11 other Asia-Pacific countries.  As the TPP nears conclusion, the TTIP agenda is gaining momentum.

  • On May 4th, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström met with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to discuss investment protection rules (referred to as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS) in TTIP.  This represented a thaw in previously frozen U.S.-EU negotiations about such provisions pending the EU’s public consultation on the issue.  EU trade ministers discussed ISDS during their Foreign Affairs Council meeting on May 7th, and ISDS was also the focus of the European Commission’s TTIP Advisory Group’s (comprised of 14 experts representing a broad range of industry and public interests) meeting on May 8th.
  • Also on May 4th, the EU published proposed legal text for regulatory cooperation, a major silo of the TTIP negotiations.  The text had been tabled at the ninth negotiating round, which took place April 20-24, 2015 in New York City.  The proposed text includes general objectives and principles for regulatory cooperation, identification of good regulatory practices, a proposed mechanism for bilateral cooperation and information exchanges, and establishment of a Regulatory Cooperation Body.
  • The European Commission released a report of the ninth negotiating round in New York on May 13th.  The report summarized the status of and progress made in discussions in the areas of market access, regulatory coherence (including horizontal and sector-specific issues), and rules (including customs and trade facilitation, raw materials, and state-to-state dispute settlement). 
  • On May 20th, the EU notified the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade of a new EU proposal allowing member states to ban imports of biotechnology-enhanced (genetically modified organisms, or GMO) food and feed products.  The United States’ criticism of the proposal has been made clear in public statements by U.S. Trade Representative Froman and the lead U.S. TTIP negotiator, particularly due to the proposal’s apparent contradiction with ongoing TTIP negotiations.
  • Also on May 20th, the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Hamamoto, spoke out against proposed expansion of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s Lisbon Treaty to create an international registry of geographical indications (GIs).  GIs have long been a point of contention in the TTIP negotiations, with rights over food names – that the U.S. food industry believes are generic – being a major priority for the EU.
  • On May 27th, the EU TTIP negotiating team for the pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics chapters will meet a broad range of EU-based organizations, including non-government organizations, consumer and business associations, and trade unions to discuss the health-related aspects of TTIP.  These discussions will address pharmaceutical, medical device, and cosmetic regulatory issues, services, intellectual property rights, and procurement.
  • On May 28th, the European Parliament International Trade (INTA) Committee will vote on the European Parliament’s TTIP Recommendations to the European Commission.  The Recommendations are in the form of a resolution reflecting the Parliament’s priorities for TTIP.  An affirmative vote by the INTA Committee (which had been delayed since April) will move the resolution to the full Parliament for consideration.

The next TTIP round will be held in July in Brussels.