Business

Transatlantic trade talks underway in Miami

U.S. chief trade negotiator Dan Mullaney, left, and EU Chief trade negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero, right, walk together out of EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. The EU and US negotiators on Monday begin the 8th round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The two are in Miami until Friday to continue trade talks.
U.S. chief trade negotiator Dan Mullaney, left, and EU Chief trade negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero, right, walk together out of EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. The EU and US negotiators on Monday begin the 8th round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The two are in Miami until Friday to continue trade talks. AP

U.S. and European Union officials are in Miami this week for the 11th round of negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed U.S.-EU agreement that would govern about one-third of the goods and services traded in the world.

This round of T-TIP negotiations, which are being held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami, began Monday and concludes Friday. The proposed trade and investment pact, which seeks to eliminate tariffs on trade and also tackle non-tariff barriers, has been under negotiation since July 2013.

Those potentially affected by the treaty — everyone from labor unions, environmental groups, importers and exporters, manufacturing associations and those both for and against — got to weigh in Wednesday at a stakeholders forum. Among the disparate speakers were representatives from the Teamsters, the AFL-CIO, Floridians Against Fracking, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Humane Society, the Sierra Club and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Some said the negotiations have been far too secretive and since they haven’t seen the text of U.S. proposals, they could only react to what they theoretically believe is under negotiation or what they think the trade pact should contain. In contrast, the European Union has chosen to make its negotiating positions public. However, there have been demonstrations in Europe attended by tens of thousands of people who oppose T-TIP.

David J. Salmonsen, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, for example, said the organization hasn’t decided whether it will support the pact because “we don’t have a text to analyze.”

The Farm Bureau’s support, he said, will be contingent on whether the pact provides new market access for poultry, beef and other U.S. agriculture products. The United States has been trying to get some meat products into the EU for decades, he said.

The National Association of Manufacturers outlined a laundry list of provisions it would like to see in T-TIP from concrete market access to strong intellectual property protection and enforcement to expanded digital trade.

Lee Sandler, a Miami international trade lawyer who was representing the American Association of Exporters and Importers, said it is important that any trade agreement the U.S. signs actually makes trade easier rather than adding regulatory “complexity that shouldn’t be there.” Import and export regulations need to be streamlined and T-TIP needs to include a “one-stop shop” agreement that would facilitate trade as well as aggressive duty reductions to zero on almost all items, he said.

“We’re with you in the negotiations and hopefully we’ll be with you in the ratification,” said Sandler.

But Andrea Cuccaro, co-chair of the Miami-Dade Green Party, said, “I feel these negotiations are really dangerous.” The party’s main priority is trying to mitigate the effects of climate change and sea level rise, she said. But because the negotiations aren’t open, environmentalists can only surmise how such issues are being treated, said Cuccaro, who favors stopping the negotiating process until it becomes more transparent.

Fred Frost, representing the Communications Workers of America, said transparency in the negotiations is essential because in previous trade agreements there weren’t enforceable labor standards and “workers got the shaft.” Trade pacts, he said, “need to uplift people.”

The biggest T-TIP threat, said Celeste Drake, a trade and globalization specialist for the AFL-CIO, is that it “simply repeats mistakes of the past” and empowers corporations at the expense of workers.

But Marjorie Chorlins, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for European affairs, called T-TIP “our last and best chance to set global standards from a position of strength.” The issues facing negotiators, she said, are very complex and difficult but progress is being made. “My message today is very simple: Let’s get on with it. Let’s pick up the pace,” she said.

The EU delegation is led by Chief Negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero, and Dan Mullaney is the chief negotiator for the United States.

Negotiations recently wound up for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade pact that includes the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, Chile, Brunei, Singapore and New Zealand. The TPP, which eliminates more than 18,000 tariffs and other trade barriers, still must be ratified by the 12 member nations.

The text of the deal still hasn’t been made public. After it is, Congress will have 90 days to review it and the text must be made available to the public for review and feedback at least 60 days before the president can enter an agreement.

  Comments