International free trade agreements
Discussions over the TTIP, CETA and TiSA free trade agreements are continuing to dominate the headlines.
Whereas the future of the TTIP is now uncertain, preparations to ratify the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union are now in full swing. In addition, negotiations over the multilateral liberalisation of services continue to be carried out secretly and in silence. Since 2012, 23 trade partners, including the EU and the USA, have been discussing possibilities for simplifying the trade in services.
In order to highlight ongoing uncertainties regarding social security, the alliance of the European Social Insurance Platform (ESIP) and the International Association of Mutual Benefit Societies (AIM) have written an open letter to EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. The letter can be found online at:
In addition to unclear terms and different interpretations of service rules, ESIP and AIM highlighted possible consequences for social security in terms of investors taking legal action against states. Similar comments have been made by the German local umbrella organisations. It remains to be seen whether, and to what extent, the negotiators take into consideration these concerns as part of their negotiations.
A change to the already negotiated CETA contract is likely to be difficult due to the upcoming ratification process. The negotiated contract is to be signed in October by the negotiating parties and make way for the ratification process. The EU Commission already announced its views on the process in July. It presented CETA as a “mixed agreement” to the Council of Ministers and not an “EU-only agreement” as was previously the case. “Mixed” means that some of the provisions in the Treaty fall within the competence of the Member States and are, therefore, required to be confirmed by the national parliaments. Until now, the Member States have held this legal opinion in the Council but not the EU Commission. Even with their decision to ratify the Treaty as a mixed agreement, the Brussels authorities have not changed their legal position and have communicated this to the Member States and the general public. Their decision is based on political motives. It is intended to ensure swift advice in the Council, which is why they have presented CETA as a mixed agreement. This has opened the way for additional ratification by the national parliaments. It also requires the approval of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union in which the Member States are represented. Only then can CETA finally and definitively enter into force
However, in order to benefit from various negotiated rules, the EU Commission is seeking to make provisional application of regulatory areas which are undisputed as being solely the responsibility of the EU. The areas which this includes are currently being assessed.
In terms of the TTIP, the EU Commission is continuing to push for a conclusion. Even though the aim of reaching agreement over the main areas of the Treaty before the end of the year does not stand a reasonable chance, the negotiators have called on Commissioner Malmström and US Trade Representative Froman to make significant progress during the 15th round of negotiations that commences at the beginning of October.
While CETA and TTIP continue to dominate the headlines, negotiations over TiSA, the multilateral agreement on the liberalisation of trade services, continue to be held in secret. Since 2012, 23 WTO member countries, including the EU and Canada, have joined forces to discuss possible ways to simplify the trade in services. Here too, the contracting parties seem to have stepped up matters and are aiming to conclude negotiations by the end of the year or by January 2017 at the latest. Similar to the TTIP, the reason for this is the up-coming changes in the US administration.