Froman Signals EU Must Show Political Will To Finish TTIP This Year

February 16, 2016

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman last week placed pressure on the European Union to finalize a Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal before President Obama leaves office, signaling that the U.S. is in a position to make a significant push to complete the deal this year — but the EU must step up to the plate as well.

“Now is the time. For two-and-a-half years, negotiations have made good, steady progress. The Obama Administration is prepared to make every effort to reach an ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard agreement, and we have demonstrated our willingness to invest political capital in expanding trade,” Froman said in a Feb. 12 speech to the Bavarian Parliament.

“But if we are going to succeed with T-TIP, we need political will on both sides to step up the pace and bring a pragmatic, problem-solving approach to the negotiations.”

Froman made similar remarks at the Munich Security Conference the same day, saying that the U.S. and EU “have the opportunity to bring these negotiations to a successful close. The Obama Administration is prepared to make every effort to conclude T-TIP, but to do so, we need both sides to apply the necessary political will.”

Froman’s remarks contrast a position long held by EU officials who say a lack of progress in key areas and the United States’ preoccupation with finalizing and securing congressional passage for the Trans-Pacific Partnership have severely diminished prospects for finishing TTIP this year.

In December, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom and Froman committed to accelerate TTIP talks, but despite the agreement to speed up work on the trade deal, Malmstrom in January continued to place the responsibility for concluding the deal on the U.S.

“The EU is ready to finish this agreement under the Obama Administration. We have the political and human resources to do that. However, the U.S. must also be prepared to commit if we are to get a result,” Malmstrom said in a Jan. 14 speech at the Welt Economic Summit in Berlin.

Three rounds of negotiations are set to take place in February, April and July, a timetable that largely mirrors last year’s negotiating schedule. The first round of the year, which will take place from Feb. 22 through the 26th in Brussels, is expected to focus on an exchange of government procurement offers, regulatory issues, and the EU’s proposal for an investment court system.