June 29, 2016 | BY: LILLIAN SCHULZ
On Wednesday, June 29, 2016, European Union Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, of the European Commission, addressed the Washington, D.C. trade community at the Atlantic Council. The Commissioner discussed the current status of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations between the European Union (EU) and the United States. Her remarks were followed by a panel discussion which featured Ms. Laura Lane, President of Global and Public Affair at UPS, Mr. Richard Trumka, President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, along with Commissioner Malmström. The event was moderated by Mr. Joe Schatz, Editor of Politico Pro’s Europe Brief.
Commissioner Malmström focused her remarks on the status of the TTIP negotiations and the obstacles to closing the prospective deal. She addressed concerns over the potential implications to TTIP after the United Kingdom European Union Membership Referendum, which decided on whether or not the U.K. would remain or leave the EU. Eventually, the end result of the Referendum was for the U.K. to leave the EU—coined by many as the “Brexit.” The Commissioner affirmed that the EU is “committed to this trade agenda…the Brits are still with us,” strongly asserting that, “yes, TTIP will survive Brexit.” She went on to explain that for the “Brexit” to become a reality, the government of the U.K. would have to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the formal legal process of leaving the EU. Until that point, the European Commission will continue to negotiate on behalf of all of its 28 member states, including the U.K. She emphasized that the TTIP negotiations have in no way lost grounding after the “Brexit” vote, but instead, they have become more imperative.
Commissioner Malmström stressed that the uniqueness of the US and EU’s relationship is why the TTIP is unlike other trade agreements. The trade partnership builds off similar political beliefs, values and shared history to strengthen the friendship as allies, she emphasized. The conversations around the TTIP are “focused on preserving our identity, and also the way in how we choose to regulate our societies and economies.” Uniting the US and EU now, to redefine the rules of trade, would mean that future global players will have to abide by the provisions that the TTIP can set in place.
As the event shifted to the panel discussion, differing perspectives were brought up in regard to the TTIP negotiations. Richard Trumpka voiced concerns over the impacts of the TTIP on labor and industry stating that “the question isn’t about to trade or to not trade, it’s what are the regulations, and who benefits.” Commissioner Malmström addressed this concern by adding that “[the EU and US] want TTIP to have the most ambitious provisions ever in labor and environment.” Mr. Trumpka expanded the discussion explaining that, “workers are a little skeptical about [TTIP], but if there was ever a chance to get [trade deals] right, this is the chance.” Laura Lane, of UPS, added that “it is in our interest to have US and EU set standards that the rest of the world will follow.” The overall tone of the panel discussion on TTIP was skeptical but optimistic. Commissioner Malmström closed the event with the assertion that, “now it is time to turn these proposals into commitments.”