(Photo taken from huffingtonpost.co.uk)
Once the news of the US Senate denying Trade Promotion Authority to President Obama on started to spread, many began to wonder if that could have been the end for the TTIP agreement. Truth is, the outcome of negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill barely mattered way before this point.
Comprehensibly, bridging such diverse markets is no easy task and the past nine rounds of negotiation did not manage to solve some of the most controversial issues revolving around this agreement. Public procurement, standard harmonisation and the infamous dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS) are the major issues at stake, but those are not entirely to blame for the substantial lack of progress: timing is an essential feature of any sound deal, especially one with such a strong political relevance as TTIP.
As a matter of fact, the negotiation teams have recently made it clear that it is highly unlikely to reach any final agreement before 2016, despite previous claims by the Commission on sealing the deal by the end of 2015. In turn, this means at least one year more, as the US presidential campaign is hardly the right time to move such a controversial treaty through Congress. Furthermore, one should not forget about Europe, as 2017 would see both Germany and France having a general election, side by side with the UK referendum – unless Cameron decides otherwise. Given the mixed feelings from the public on TTIP, the chances of striking a deal get thinner by the day.
Yet there is one more aspect to consider when evaluating the possibility of the TTIP to make it through the year: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is the real driver of current American trade policy. The other global trade agreement, between the U.S. and the major countries from the Asia-Pacific region (with the exception of China), is what Washington is pursuing at the moment, as the deal seems closer than ever to a successful conclusion. Thus, as TTIP comes only second in the priorities of the US, there appears to be less space to reach a compromise on the other side of the Atlantic.
In July, the tenth negotiating round for TTIP is going to take place in Brussels, and it is likely to focus on sustainable development and environmental issues, according to a report by the Commission on the ninth round; with no agreement in sight, it is hard to expect something substantial to come out of the meeting. The European Union has a long list of stalling trade negotiations, some of which might even benefit from having to compete with the TPP (i.e. Japan, Vietnam), but for the time being, that list is only getting longer.