Another temporary casualty of the US government shutdown is the negotiation process surrounding the US and Europe’s free trade agreement. The second round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) talks were due to start this week in Brussels, Belgium, but following last Tuesday’s closedown of non-essential US operations, trade representative Michael Froman has told the EU that the constraints have made it impossible to send over a full negotiating team.
The first round of T-TIP negotiations ended on a positive note in July, with EU leaders branding them “historic” and the US extolling the “significant benefits” of international competitiveness, jobs, and growth. The pharma industry on both sides of the Atlantic was heartened by the talks, welcoming the potential for greater efficiencies by addressing regulatory differences and duplicative requirement.
The second round was set to involve 13 working groups, with 100 officials from the EU.
Froman has stressed that Washington will continue with the talks when the shutdown is over, and European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said the delay was unfortunate but “in no way distracts us from our overall aim of achieving an ambitious trade and investment deal.”
But as disgruntled commentators have pointed out that, having waited three months between the first negotiation session and the second, the US shutdown will nudge the potential economic benefits of the agreement, very much needed by both parties, even further into the future.