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EU Council gives the green light to launch free-trade talks with the United States

On 14 June 2013, EU trade ministers mandated the Commission to negotiate a sweeping EU–US trade and investment pact. The talks are expected to be formally launched at the G8 on 17 June.

This “transatlantic trade and investment partnership” (TTIP) is a major priority for the Irish Presidency of the Council. “The main achievement today has been the EU–US mandate,” said Richard Bruton, Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, who chaired the Council meeting. “This agreement will reap rewards on both sides of the Atlantic and provide an important stimulus at a time when the European economy needs such a stimulus.”

Scope of the TTIP mandate

The EU negotiating mandate for the TTIP focuses on three broad themes:

1. market access
2. regulatory issues and non-tariff barriers (such as differences in standards)
3. the rules under which the pact would operate.

The Council agreed that audiovisual services would not be covered in the mandate, but that the Commission would have the opportunity to make recommendations on additional negotiating mandates.

Trade is an exclusive power of the European Union, whereby the Commission negotiates international deals on the EU’s behalf.

The mandate agreed unanimously by member states on Friday consists of three parts:

  • a Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations
  • the EU member states’ decision authorising the Commission to negotiate, on their behalf, those provisions of the EU-US TTIP that fall outside the limits of EU competence
  • the negotiating directives.

Conclusion of the agreement

The Council will conclude the final agreement after the European Parliament has given its consent and member states have ratified the text.

Estimated impact of the TTIP

When completed, the TTIP will be the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated. According to an impact assessment by the Commission, a comprehensive trade and investment agreement could increase EU GDP by up to 0.48% and boost EU gross national income by up to €86 billion.

Current size of EU-US trade

The EU is the US’s largest trading partner, while the United States is the EU’s second-largest trading partner, with 17.6% and 13.9% respectively of each other’s trade in goods in 2011. Together the EU and the United States account for almost half of global GDP and one third of total world trade.

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