13th December 2015

Hopeful signs for EU free trade agreements from around the world

Last week, hopeful signs came from Australia, Latin America and Canada concerning the respective free trade talks with the EU.

Australia and New Zealand launched free trade talks with the EU a couple of weeks ago. Although the countries are rather small and trade talks with them are virtually non-controversial (apart from anti-globalization hardliners), the talks are expected to take quite some time. Since EU´s current trade headache is TTIP, Australian and New Zealand´s trade talks are only expected to launch late next year, or even in 2017. Both countries would like to speed up the process – for example by launching informal negotiations as soon as possible. Both countries representatives pointed out that due to their historical ties with the UK, their regulatory rules and trade mindset are very close to the EU´s and therefore the talks should not encounter major roadblocks. They are also opened to the new ISDS approach that the EC has proposed for TTIP and future EU trade agreements.

Meanwhile, Latin American presidents expressed their hope that the EU-Mercosur trade talks would progress at last. The two regional blocs, the EU and Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Venezuela), are negotiating an all-encompassing region-to-region association agreement. Trade chapters are waiting for the presentation of proposals from both sides. Negotiators indicated a deadline for this exchange of proposals would be the end of this year – although there is said to be flexibility.

Also, the Canadian new liberal government indicated its strong will to ratify and apply the concluded CETA agreement with the EU as soon as possible. The problem, though, is on EU´s side. The deal was concluded before the revamped ISDS proposal for TTIP and future trade deals. CETA, therefore, contains a much less ambitious ISDS chapter – which means MEPs are unwilling to sign to it. On the other hand, negotiators do not want to re-open the wording of the deal. Canada offered a way to proceed – some changes would be possible during the linguistic fine-tuning of the text. Canada would be open to more substantial changes (such as changing the private arbitration to a public ISDS body), than is normally the case for such an advanced stage of negotiations, in order to push the deal through. Canadian representatives said, though, that Canada would not go so far as to introduce an appeals mechanism – this would need more precise negotiations and that would take too long. Even at this stage, for the EU to ratify the deal, not only the Council and the EP need to approve it, but most likely also all 28 national parliaments (legal opinions on this point vary). This would push the ratification well into 2017.

For more, click here, here and here.

Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic