“It doesn’t mean the death of TTIP,” stressed European Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom when pushed by reporters on whether or not the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership would be completed by the end of 2016.
The deal, pushed hard by the likes of Barack Obama, Jean-Claude Juncker, David Cameron, and Hillary Clinton is looking less and less likely to be completed after another round of talks stalled over U.S. protectionism and European populist concerns over regulation and investment settlement.
But the wider implications are huge.
When a European Commissioner has to insist that a key policy is not dead – you can bet it is at best on life support.
“We will do our utmost to get this done,” Ms. Malmstrom insisted at a conference in Stockholm this week.
“[But] if this is not possible for different reasons, it is not in anybody’s interest to declare, ‘Rest in peace and go on.’”
“It doesn’t mean the death of TTIP; it means delay of TTIP. How long, impossible to say,” she said.
The news should impact Britain’s European Union membership referendum debate too.
Less than two months ago U.S. President Barack Obama flew to Britain to insist that the United Kingdom would go to the “back of the queue” for a trade deal with the U.S. But if TTIP continues to stall, the United States will find itself in an awkward situation, being years away from any such deal with the EU while having rejected an easier, bilateral deal with the United Kingdom.
In practice of course, the U.S. would simply have to back track: perhaps not as difficult if Americans elect a Republican president in November – but Democrats have been repeatedly hostile to bilateral deals with Britain.
A U.S. trade official even confirmed that the U.S. currently has a bilateral trade deal with Oman, and so there would be no problem doing one with Britain.
But ‘Leave’ campaigners have been traditionally impotent when it comes to economic and trade arguments – failing to seize on the unpopularity of TTIP and the implications of what is known by many to be a “corporate stitch up” deal.
The major opposition to TTIP stems from the Investor-State Settlement Dispute (ISDS) portion of the deal which allows corporations to sue governments for implementing policies mandated by the voting public. A Breitbart London investigation uncovered that the Canadian government has been sued to the tune of over $2bn as a result of a similar trade deal.
“If it gets delayed three years, to five years, to seven years into the future because of whatever the remaining differences are, that doesn’t mean that the status quo is going to remain either,” said Michael Froman, Barack Obama’s trade representative.
But with TTIP on the rocks, it looks increasingly like the status quo of an expansionist European Union and a rudderless United States will continue.
If Britain leaves the European Union – it could potentially work at a faster pace than both while maintaining current trading relationships.