Brief summary of the progress of the TTIP negotiations and the CETA ratification:
With negotiations having long since reached a conclusion, CETA had been on ice for some time. Now negotiations have recently been reopened, including at the request of Austria (Faymann). The protection of investment still remains problematic but more transparency has been brought to the table as regards the arbitration boards with key decision-making powers.
The package insert: the CETA text extends to some 1,600 pages, and some of the wording is vague and requires further legal clarification. Lawyers say they don’t know how these passages are to be interpreted and how courts would decide in the case of a lawsuit. But this is beside the point because there is no way that 1,600 pages can be clear-cut in legal terms, no matter how carefully they are written. The plan now is not to renegotiate the CETA deal but to write explanatory notes on some passages in order to clarify their meaning. This is the package insert, so to speak, which is now being discussed. This is intended to enable critical governing parties like the SPD and SPÖ to have some success to show from their time at the negotiating table. Naturally there will still be passages which leave room for interpretation. This will always be the case.
This is how the process works:
Yesterday, 23.9: informal agreement in council of trade ministers in Bratislava
20.10: formal approval of governments at summit, with power of veto for every government
December: vote of European Parliament; parts relating to European law enter into force on approval; this is called “provisional application”
2017-2018: voting in the national parliaments
We are unclear as to what will happen if one of them doesn’t agree as we will be faced with an unprecedented situation. The agreement would then be derailed. It is conceivable, however, that the governments will agree to simply let the European law parts stand and, with regard to the national jurisdiction, that only 26 will have this agreement with Canada. That would be more acceptable to Canada than shelving the whole agreement. We would check the possible courses of legal action against such a solution but, until then, we will fight for refusal of consent.
As far as the TTIP is concerned, two more rounds of negotiation between EU-28 and the Obama administration are planned – the 15th at the beginning of October and the 16th in the middle of December.
The one in December is pivotal. The US election will have been fought and won, and the new President will not yet be in office. The USA is currently blocking some far-reaching European demands and this will not change in the election campaign.
In December Obama could “deal the final blow”, take the rap and hand over a framework agreement to his successor, leaving only the finer details to be fleshed out. Naturally that would work with Clinton but not with Trump.
It is surely no coincidence that the CETA was put on ice for months after negotiations had finished and was then held in the air and timed to land in the European Parliament at virtually the same time as the last TTIP round. We MPs are being put under pressure to go for “all or nothing”. My decision is clear but it will be an uphill struggle to the very end.