'Strong political will' to reach TTIP quickly

  • 24/10/2015
European Union chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia (Reuters)
European Union chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia (Reuters)

Negotiators for a huge trans-Atlantic free trade pact say they are aiming to conclude a deal next year, after making "substantial progress" this week at talks in in Miami.

Week-long discussions in the Florida city led by US negotiator Dan Mullaney and the European Union's Ignacio Garcia-Bercero advanced on the huge number of tariffs to be eliminated under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which if completed will be the world's largest free-trade area.

They also narrowed some differences on how to remove bureaucratic barriers to trade and investment and harmonise regulations, a sensitive issue amid worries especially in Europe that consumer protections will be watered down in any deal.

Garcia-Bercero told reporters on Friday that there was "strong political will" on both sides of the Atlantic to reaching a deal on TTIP relatively quickly, more than two years after negotiations opened.

The 11th round of negotiations "was about translating this political will into concrete steps forward. This round achieved exactly that," he told reporters.

Mullaney pointed out that the round came just weeks after the United States concluded a similarly ambitious trade and investment pact with 11 Pacific Rim nations including Australia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"We believe that it is important to try to finish these negotiations during President Obama's presidency," he said.

With President Barack Obama due to exit the White House in January 2017, the push leaves a tight time-frame to bridge a wide range of issues.

This week's talks brought the two closer on agreement on the elimination of all tariffs on 97 per cent of goods traded between the United States and the EU's 28 countries.

The other three per cent represent more sensitive goods, like farm products and genetically modified crops, that will likely only be dealt with in the final stages of the talks.