First of all, let me express my thanks to Ignacio and his European Commission colleagues for graciously hosting us during the 12th round of T-TIP negotiations here in Brussels. We really appreciate all they did to facilitate the progress we achieved this week.
When Ambassador Froman and EU Trade Commissioner Malmstrom met in Washington last September to review the status of the negotiations, they agreed on the need to accelerate work in all areas with goal of completing T-TIP in 2016. They have met several times since then to ensure forward movement.
Our intensified engagement over the past few months – during which many of our negotiators have been in almost daily contact with their EU counterparts – has yielded real progress:
We now have proposed text in the vast majority of the negotiating areas. And in many cases, we are already removing brackets and agreeing on wording. In short, we are well into the nitty-gritty of negotiating this agreement.
This round comes just three weeks since the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We look forward to concluding a similarly high quality agreement with the European Union.
Two of the texts that we put forward this round were on labor and the environment. These proposals underscore our commitment to advance our labor and environmental objectives in T-TIP, without reducing in any way worker or environmental protections on either side of the Atlantic.
Just as in our previous trade agreements, we propose making adherence to labor and environmental standards enforceable in T-TIP, which we believe strengthens those protections. We believe that T-TIP also has the potential to increase transatlantic cooperation in addressing labor and environmental challenges more generally, to the benefit of all of our citizens and people around the world.
We made significant advances in the regulatory area during the round. Our goal in T-TIP – which makes it one of the most ambitious trade agreement in history – is to bridge, where possible, regulatory divergences and promote greater compatibility – all without lowering the environmental, health and safety protections our citizens have come to expect.
At our meeting this week we advanced our discussions of regulatory cooperation and good regulatory practices with the aim of strengthening transparent rule-making on both sides of the Atlantic.
Public comment and input reinforce the democratic legitimacy of our regulatory systems without diminishing parliamentary control over those processes.
We also this week continued our discussions on regulatory issues in important sectors such as autos, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. We made significant progress in identifying the common objectives we want to achieve in each of these areas.
The cross-cutting goal in all of the sectors is to improve regulatory compatibility in ways that reduce unnecessary bburdens on trade, while maintaining existing levels of regulatory protection and making better use of regulator resources. Our work on identifying common objectives builds on years of information and data exchange, studies and in-depth discussion. Our efforts in the regulatory area have potential to achieve significant benefits.
The United States during this round also put forward substantive proposals on customs and trade facilitation, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and rules of origin.
The goal of our efforts in these areas is to simplify customs procedures, eliminate unnecessary red tape, ensure that health and safety regulations are based on science and make certain that the benefits of T-TIP go mainly to those who create value within the transatlantic area.
In October during our last round, we had a second exchange of tariff offers in which both sides agreed to liberalize 97% of their tariff lines, most of them immediately upon entry into force of the agreement.
This is a good start, but the United States remains committed to the goal of eliminating transatlantic tariffs under T-TIP. We look forward to working with the European Union in the coming months to achieve that objective.
Meanwhile, we have already begun discussing how we can reduce the phase-out periods for those tariff lines that are not yet scheduled for immediate elimination.
Finally, we plan on an initial exchange of offers on government procurement early next week, and will have discussions thereafter.
We still have much work to do, but if we can sustain our current intensified engagement, we can finish the negotiations this year.
Our common goal is to reach by July an advanced stage of text consolidation across the board, narrowing down our differences to the most sensitive issues and putting us in a position to potentially complete the agreement in the second half of the year.
The economic and strategic rationale for T-TIP has only grown stronger since we started negotiating more than 2-1/2 years ago. T-TIP gives Europe and the United States the opportunity, together, to help shape the global rules for trade and investment in way that reflects our common values and interests, to be standard setters rather than standard takers.
Let me be clear: We do not favor an “early harvest” or a “T-TIP light.” We want an ambitious, comprehensive and high standard agreement. The United States remains committed to doing its part to accomplish that.