EU Commission to hold Stakeholder meeting on the establishment of a multilateral investment court12/03/2018
On Friday 13 April 2018, from 10:00 to 12:00, the European Commission will hold a stakeholder meeting on the multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution including the establishment of a multilateral investment court.
The Multilateral Investment Court proposed by the Commission, and now included in CETA, is a permanent body to decide investment disputes, which represents a major departure from the ad hoc arbitral system of investor-to-State dispute settlement (ISDS). The idea of a full-fledged two-tier court to deal with investor-state disputes under investment Treaty is also being discussed by the UNCITRAL III Working Group. The submission made to the Group by the EU can be found here.
In view of establishing an ever-closer cooperation between the Institutions and the civil society, at the meeting the Commission will update stakeholders on the latest developments in this area at the EU and international level and exchange views on the latest relevant EU policy developments.
To participate, register at this link before Friday 6 April.
Commission unveils a 15 steps plan to further the implementation and enforcement of Trade and Sustainable Development chapters in EU Free Trade Agreements01/03/2018
On 27 February 2018, Trade Commissioner Malmström presented a non-paper outlining 15 actions points to improve Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters in EU Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
The document collects the results of an eight-months debate with the Institutions, the Member States and the civil society started by the Commission in July 2017.
In the paper, the Commission developed a set of 15 concrete and practicable actions to be taken to revamp the TSD chapters, building on recommendations received and categorised under four broad headings:
A.Working Together – Through the following actions: 1. Partnering with Member States and the European Parliament and 2. Working with international organisations;
B.Enabling and civil society including the Social Partners to play a greater role in implementation – By: 3. Facilitating the monitoring role of civil society including the Social Partners; 4. Extending the scope for civil society, including the Social Partners, to the whole FTA; 5. Taking action regarding responsible business conduct;
C.Delivering – 6. Country priorities; 7. Assertive enforcement; 8. Encourage early ratification of core international agreements; 9. Reviewing the TSD implementation effectiveness; 10. Handbook for implementation; 11. Step up resources; 12. Climate action; 13. Trade and labour;
D.Transparency and Communication – With: 14. More transparency and better communication, and 15. Time-bound response to TSD submissions.
In the view of the Commission, this list is however not exhaustive: further actions and other measures could also be taken depending on the necessity or the actual case. In this view, the Commission sees continuous engagement with Member States, the European Parliament, interested stakeholders and the public as a crucial action to continuously analyse the effectiveness of the implementation of the TSD chapters (e.g. through review clauses; annual FTA implementation reports; ex-post impact assessments).
The importance of implementing these actions to reach the full potential of trade not as a “weapon of intimidation” but rather as an instrument of growth good for “stakeholders, […] consumers, employees, the communities they work in and the environment” was also reaffirmed by Trade Commissioner Malmström during her address at Amfori on March 12, 2018.
The paper is part of the broader EU Sustainable Development Strategy which aims to identify and develop actions to enable the EU to achieve a continuous long-term improvement of quality of life through the creation of sustainable communities able to manage and use resources efficiently.
The new CPTPP text released21/02/2018
Yesterday, the eleven states parties to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) have released the text of their new agreement, expected to be ratified by March.
However, it still includes some notable changes, especially with regards to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).
This agreement between the sc. TPP11 constitutes an interesting development for the EU: it not only is expressly open to ratification to "any State or separate customs territory", but also it constitutes yet another reinforcement (together with ASEAN and RCEP) of the Asian region as a powerful standard-setter in international trade and investment.
The Commission publishes a report on the outcome of the second round of renegotiations of the existing EU-Chile Association Agreement10/02/2018
After the conclusion of the second round of negotiations with Chile for the modernisation of the existing Association Agreement, last February 6 the Commission published a report on the results achieved, as well as all negotiating textual proposals.
Overall, all seventeen negotiating groups that met on15-18 January m ade good progress.
Among other things, the parties exchanged preliminary views on the overall architecture of the future investment chapter, which, in the EU proposal, should also include access to the negotiating Investment Court System.
First meeting of the new EU Commission's expert group on EU trade agreements01/02/2018
The initiative of setting up the Group is part of the European Commission’ broader aim to have a transparent and accountable trade policy based on consultations with all parts of European civil society.
The number of participants to the Group and the variety of their backgrounds is intended to foster in-depth dialogue on trade in the EU and engage with the Commission in a discussion on old and new issues in the field, including the proposed multilateral Investment Court, e-commerce, trade and gender, trade and consumers, and provisions in trade agreements for smaller and medium-sized firms.
The Commission believes that the Group’s input will help it in its ongoing efforts to both ensuring that EU trade policy is state-of-the-art and progressive, and establishing a closer link with the needs and concerns of the civil society at the national level.
Council publishes the mandate given to the Commission to modernise the existing association agreement with Chile24/01/2018
The update of the EU-Chile relations, launched on November 16, 2017, aims at deepening the relations between the block and the South American country by enhancing existing cooperation on political, security and trade matters.
The publication of the Council of the EU’s mandate is especially important in terms of the Commission-led commitment to greater transparency of the EU in its external relations, by reason of the mixed political and economic nature of the Agreement.
Indeed, such decision constitutes a first-of-its-kind, as never before the Council had made public the entire negotiating mandate for this kind of agreements.
The decision has been applauded by the Commission. In particular, Trade Commissioner Malmström underlined the crucial role of transparency to gain EU citizens’ trust in the work of the Institutions.
The European Commission and the European External Action Service publish report on the impact of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences for the period 2016-201719/01/2018
The EU Commission and the European External Action Service published today a report and a detailed accompanying document on the impact of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) for the period 2016-2017.
The GSP - which entered into force in 2014 - is the EU's main trade instrument to support developing countries to achieve sustainable development using the economic engines of trade. As a tool for the promotion of universal values of human rights, social justice and environmental protection, the GSP is an integral part of the Commission's "Trade for All" strategy.
The GSP consists of three different arrangements that grant to developing countries privileged access to the EU market (Standard GSP, GSP+, or Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance and EBA - Everything But Arms). The idea is that, by having a privileged access to the single market, the developing countries party to the GPA have the opportunity generate additional revenues via international trade that can help reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development, human rights and good governance.
The report highlights an overall positive impact of the GSP on developing countries, both in economic and non economic terms. Since its entry into force, exports from countries to the EU benefitting from these tariff cuts rose by nearly a quarter to a yearly amount of Euro 63 billion. Least developed countries benefited the most: their exports to the EU increased by nearly 40% and reached €23.5 billion in 2016.The report also points out the progress made on issues such as women’s empowerment, child and forced labour, torture, illegal drugs trafficking and climate change.
The documents published today also address the shortcomings that still need to be tackled to reach the aims of the GSP, which include the implementation and enforcement of the relevant legislation by the countries benefiting of the scheme.
The EU Commission discusses with civil society the outcome of the debriefing on the WTO 11th Ministerial Conference and the way forward for the EU11/01/2018
On January 24 the European Commission will hold a meeting with civil society on the unsuccessful outcome of the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, which took place in Buenos Aires, from 10 to 13 December 2017.
The meeting aims at a views’ exchange between the Commission and the civil society on the WTO Conference, which will also help the European Institution delineate its position in the ongoing discussions with other WTO Members on the way forward for the WTO.
To register for the meeting and for the provisional list of the organisations that have registered to participate, follow this link.
Commission publishes the list of representative organisations composing the Group of Experts on EU Trade Agreements22/12/2017
Further to the Commission decision of September 13, 2017 and the implementing public call for applications, the Commission has published the list of associations composing the Group of Experts on EU Trade Agreements.
The Group brings together representative organisations with expertise in economic, social, ethical and/or environmental aspects of EU trade policy.
The Experts will support the European Commission in the negotiation and in the implementation of trade agreements, shedding light on the different perspectives the stakeholders they represent may take on certain issues, and providing feedback on the perception and public debate on trade agreements across EU Member States, also bringing to the attention of the Commission issues that may require particular attention.
The appointment of the list of experts implements the aims set in the Commission Communication "Trade for all: Towards a more responsible trade and investment policy" of October 2015, which highlights the importance of crafting the EU's trade policy in a transparent and inclusive manner, also by the involvement of civil society.
A precedent in this form of dialogue with stakeoholders' associations and civil society was constituted by the informal TTIP Advisory Group, convened from 2014 to January 2017.
The first meeting of the Group is foreseen for January 2018. On that occasion, the Group will discuss and adopt its own rules of procedure.
Regulation (EU) 2017/2321 on trade defence measures enters into force and the Commission publishes the first implementing report on distortions in China20/12/2017
Today enters into force the recently adopted Regulation (EU) 2017/2321, strengthening the European legislation on antidumping and subsidies imports from countries not members of the European Union (see press release).
The Regulation constitutes a key element of President Juncker's agenda on A Europe That Protects.
The main change brought about by the Regulation the calculation of the anti-dumping on imports from all countries part of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members. The effect of the Regulation will be the (legal) imposition of higher duties for those WTO countries whose imported products’ prices and costs are distorted because of State intervention.
The eimposition of higher duties will be based on the verification of “significant distortions” by means of Commission’s reports. According to Regulation (EU) 2017/2321, factors to be taken into account to determine such significant distortions are, for instance, State presence in firms allowing the state to interfere with respect to prices or costs, State policies discriminating in favour of national enterprises or social and environmental factors which allow the undue cut of production costs (eg. distortion of wage costs) in the representative source country.
In accordance with such regulation, the European Commission also published the first country report on State induced distortions, regarding the Chinese market.
The choice of the country is to be read in the context of the WTO dispute between China, the US and the EU on the calculation methodologies used by the US and EU in anti-dumping proceedings and the opposition by the EU (supported by the US and Japan) to the recognition of the Chinese economy as “market-economy” in the context of the WTO.
The next country report will concern Russia.
The EU, Japan and the United States announce a trilateral joint coordinated action on market-distorting measures by third countries13/12/2017
On December 12, in occasion of the 11th WTO Ministerial Meeting, the EU Trade Commissioner, the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the US Trade Representative issued a joint declaration at on their commitment to enhancing close cooperation to achieve a global level playing field in global trade.
In the statement the trade representatives severely condemned market distorting protectionist practices in key sectors (eg. steel) identified in “deep excess capacity exacerbated by government-financed and supported capacity expansion, and unfair competitive conditions caused by large market-distorting subsidies and state-owned enterprises”.
The statement is to be read as an opposition by the US, the EU and Japan to China's demand to be seen as a "market economy" by the WTO, by reason of its practice to provide market-distorting subsidies to national operators and industries.
China has recently sued the EU on the non-recognition of its economy as a “market economy”, maintaining the absence of any generally recognised such definition.
The EU and Japan have finalised Economic and Partnership Agreement08/12/2017
Today the Union and Japan have confirmed the conclusion of the negotiation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Based on the political agreement in principle reached during the EU-Japan Summit on 6 July 2017, the EU-Japan EPA represents the biggest bilateral trade agreement ever negotiated by the Union.
The key elements of the EPA are highlighted here.
With todays' announcement the legal verification of the text by the two contracting parties has started. Once this exercise is completed, the English text of the EPA will be translated into the other official languages of the Union. Then, the Commission will submit the agreement for the approval of the European Parliament and EU MSs.
The EU and Japan will continue working on investments' protection, a chapter which is not included in the new EPA.
Case C‑600/14: mixity in the European Union's Free Trade Agreements06/12/2017
With its judgment in case C-600/14, rendered this morning, the Grand Chamber of the ECJ has substantiated the Court's decision on the Singapore Opinion (Opinion 2/15), excluding that findings of shared competence render mixity mandatory.
The EU judges have first recalled that the Treaties distinguish between the Union having an external competence (216(1) TFEU) and the exclusive or shared nature of such competence (Article 3(2) TFEU). The Union may, thus, well have an external competence that falls outside the situations laid down in the Article 3(2) TFEU.
The ECJ then substantiated its position on mixity adopted in Opinion 2/15, where it found that non-direct foreign investment provisions (shared competence of the EU and MS), could not be approved by the Union alone. The Court specified that such finding was purely circumstantial, as it did no more than mirroring “the fact that, as stated by the Council [...], there was no possibility of the required majority being obtained within the Council for the Union to be able to exercise alone the external competence that it shares with the Member States in this area”.
The text of the ruling can be found here.
EU Commission's upcoming appointments with civil society20/11/2017
In compliance with its committment towards an enhanced level of transparency in the field of international trade, in the next few days the European Commission has two meetings lined up with civil society.
On November 27, the EU Commission will exchange views with representatives of civil society on the EU's position and proposals for the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference, to will be held in Buenos Aires in December 2017.
On December 15, the EU Commission will debrief civil society organisations on the status of the EU-Indonesia trade negotiations and exchange views on the topic. For more information and to register for the event, visit this link.
The EU Commission to hold a stakeholder meeting on the multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution and the possible establishment of a multilateral investment court.03/11/2017
The meeting aims at exchanging views on the topic with all interested individuals and entities.
The event will be held in Brussels, Lord Jenkins room, Charlemagne building, Rue de la Loi 170, from 14:30 to 17:30.
Registration is available until November 17 via this Link.
The event will also be livestreamed. The link will be available here.
European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 containing the Parliament’s recommendation to the Council on the proposed negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with Australia26/10/2017
In a resolution adopted on 26 October 2017, the European Parliament welcomed the negotiations with Australia but requested the inclusion of some aspects in the negotiating directive. It called for the respect of EU's consumer protection standards and for the negotiation of chapters on micro-enterprises and SMEs, on sustainable development, on agriculture and fisheriers. On this last point, the protection of sensitive products and sectors through, for instance, the introduction of tariff-rate quotas or their exclusion from trade liberalisation measures should be considered. Moreover, no provision should prevent EU governments from legislating to protect health, safety of the environment or require them to privatise public services. Finally, the EP suggested to adopt provisions allowing for the full functioning of the digital ecosystem and promoting cross-border data flows in full compliance with EU's data protection and privacy rules. In compliance with CJEU's Opinion 2/15, a separate deal on investments should be concluded.
European Parliament resolution of 26 October 2017 containing the Parliament’s recommendation to the Council on the proposed negotiating mandate for trade negotiations with New Zealand26/10/2017
In a resolution of 26 October 2017, the European Parliament welcomed the negotiations with New Zealand as sensitive country to sustainable environmental policies, but recommended to negotiate chapters on micro-enterprises and SMEs, on sustainable development and on agriculture and fisheries to avoid using the latter as a leverage to increase access to the New Zealand market. Commitments on the respect of the EU's consumer protection standards and of the welfare of farm and wild animals should also be undertaken. No provision should prevent EU States from legislating to defend health, safety of the environemnt or require them to privatise public services. Moreover, EU businesses should have new opportunities to win contracts with public authorities. Provisions allowing for the promotion of the digital system and cross-border data flows according to the EU's data protection and privacy rules should be adopted. In compliance with CJEU's Opinion 2/15, separate deal on investments should be concluded.
EU Commission publishes text proposals and progress report on the advancements achieved in the 5th round of negotiations on the modernization of the EU-Mexico Global Agreement16/10/2017
The 5th round of negotiations for the modernisation of the EU-Mexico Global Agreement led to substantive advancements in most areas and negotiation groups.
According to the report, constructive outcomes were reached, among others, with regards to sustainable development, transparency and investment protection.
Opposingly, negotiations stall on investment dispute resolution. According to the published negotiating text, the EU is pushing for the creation of an Investment Court on the model of CETA.
EU Trade Commissioner Malmström calls for ambition in next week's WTO meeting in Marrakech09/10/2017
In view of next week's WTO meeting in Marrakech, of preparation for the December's formal gathering in Argentina, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström called for ambition in this turn of negotiations.
After re-stating the EU's continuous support for the work of the WTO, Malmström invited the other WTO partners to constructively engaging on various proposals put forward by the EU in view of reaching substantive outcomes in several key negotiation areas.
Among these proposals, the EU also supports further discussion on investment facilitation in the WTO.
More information on the EU proposals at this link.
Tomorrow EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström will meet civil society to discuss Trade and Sustainable Development in the EU's FTAs05/10/2017
With a view to improving the implementation of Trade and Sustainable Development (TSD) chapters in the EU's free trade agreements, tomorrow Commissioner Malmström will present current developments and exchange views with civil society organisations on Trade and Sustainable Development.
The meeting is part of the broader discussions undertaken by the Commission with the Council, EP and stakeholders to ensure that commitments in bilateral trade and investment agreements in such areas as trade, labour standards, climate and environment protection are respected.
The discussion will be based on the non-paper made available on the website of the Directorate-General for Trade (DG Trade) on 11 July 2017.
The meeting will be recorded and web-streamed through this link.
EU and Mexico successfully conclude the fifth round of negotiations for the modernization of the 1997 EU-Mexico Global Agreement02/10/2017
On October 2, 2017, the Commission announced the successful conclusion of the 5th round of negotiations with Mexico for the revision of the 1997 EU-Mexico Global Agreement.
The agreement includes trade rules that were later developed into the current comprehensive Free Trade Agreement that entered into force in October 2000.
The sixth round of negotiations will take place in Mexico City from 25 November to 1 December.
The negotiating parties aim at concluding a highly ambitious agreement by the end of the year.
The EU negotiating proposals are available at this link.
Intra-EU BIT considered compatible with EU Law by AG Wathelet in the Achmea case19/09/2017
In his Opinion in Case C-284/16 (Slovak Republic v Achmea BV), AG Wathelet maintains that the arbitration clause in the investment protection agreement concluded between the Netherlands and Slovakia is compatible with EU law.
In what can be rightly be described as a paramount opinion on the issue of intra-EU BITs, the AG argues that:
The disputed arbitration clause does not constitute discrimination on grounds of nationality prohibited by EU law;
The arbitration system does not fall outside the scope of the preliminary ruling mechanism established by Article 267 TFEU and is, therefore, compatible with that article;
In any case, Article 344 TFEU applies only to disputes between Member States or between Member States and the Union.
EU-Japan trade negotiating directives made public14/09/2017
After the call for a more transparent and inclusive trade policy for the EU made yesterday by Jean-Claude Juncker during the State of the Union Address, the Council published today the2012 directives given to the Commission to negotiate a trade agreement with Japan.
The EU Commission publishes its recommendations for a Council Decision authorizing the opening of for a Convention establishing a multilateral court for the settlement of investment disputes, as well as for the negotiations for 2 Free Trade Agreements13/09/2017
In line with its efforts to ensure the greatest possible transparency of the EU's activity in the field of international trade, the EU Commission has published 3 recommendations for Council decisions authorizing the opening of negotiations for a Convention establishing a multilateral court for the settlement of investment disputes, as well as for the 2 Free Trade Agreements with Australia and New Zealand.
The latest Eurobarometer survey shows Europeans want the EU to do more in economy and foreign policy11/09/2017
Belgium submits request for an opinion on CETA's compatibility with EU Treaties06/09/2017
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders submits Belgium’s request for an opinion on the compatibility of the Investment Court System (ICS) with the European Treaties to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The ICS is the reformed system of dispute settlement between States and investors, that was introduced in the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
Pursuant to the request, the ECJ will have to assess the compatibility of the CETA ICS with:
the exclusive competence of the ECJ to ensure the definitive interpretation of European Union law;
the EU general principle of equality;
the right of access to the courts; and
the right to an independent and impartial judiciary.
Should the ECJ establish the incompatibility of the Agreement with EU law, the EU will be prevented from concluding that Agreement with Canada.
When fundamental rights shape the external relations of the EU: The ECJ's opinion on the PNR agreement with Canada.26/07/2017
The ECJ declares that the PNR agreement with Canada at its current state cannot be concluded by the Union as some of its provisions are incompatible with EU fundamental rights.
The full text of the decision at this link.
UN agrees to start work on multilateral reform of investment dispute settlement12/07/2017
On 10 July 2017, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) agreed that further work should be carried out in this forum on the issue of a multilateral reform of investment dispute settlement.
More information on the EU Commission website.
EU and Japan reach agreement in principle on Economic Partnership Agreement06/07/2017
The European Union and Japan have reached today an agreement in principle on the main elements of an EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. The Agreement covers a number of areas, from agricultural exports to services markets, in particular, financial services, e-commerce, telecommunications, and transport.
The Agreement marks another fundamental step for a more open and fair global trading system. However, some chapters of fundamental importance, such as investment, remain for the momento outside its scope.
EP's Resolution on the implementation of the FTA with Korea18/05/2017
On 18th May 2017 the plenary of the European Parliament has adopted a Resolution on the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Korea. The Resolution recalls that the FTA shall be considered as a process, meaning that it must be subject to periodic analyses and evaluations. Furthermore, the European Parliament observes that there are still issues that should be analysed and further implemented in the relations between the European Union and Korea, namely:
technical barriers to trade;
barriers in the area of sanitary and phytosanitary measures;
intellectual protperty rights;
trade and sustainable development;
rules of origin;
The European Parliament als calls the Commission and the EU Member States to study the preference utilisation rate of SMEs in particular and to take effective steps to raise awareness among SMEs regarding the opportunities taht the FTA ha created.
ECJ's Opinion on the envisaged FTA with Singapore16/05/2017
On 20th September 2013, the European Union (EU or Union) and Singapore initialled a text of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The Agreeement is on the first 'new generation' bilateral free trade agreements, that is to say, a trade agreement which contains, in addition to the classical provisions on the reduction of customs duties and of non-tariff barriers in the field of trade in goods and services, provisions on various matters related to trade, such as intellectual property protection, investment, public procurement, competition and sustainable development.
The European Commission submitted a request to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for an Opinion to determine whether the EU has an exclusive competence to sing and conclude the FTA by itself. The Commission and the European Parliament contend that that is the case. The Council and the governments of all the Member States which submitted observations to the Court (observations were submitted by all the Member States with the exception of Belgium, Croatia, Estonia and Sweden) assert that the Union cannot conclude the agreement by itself because certain parts of the FTA fall within a competence shared between the EU and its Member States, or even within the exclusive competence of the Member States.
In today's Opinion, the ECJ, after having made it clear that the Opinion relates only to the issue of whether the EU has exclusive competence and not whether the content of the Agreement is compatible with EU law, holds that the FTA with Singapore cannot, in its current form, be concluded by the Union alone, because some of the provisions envisaged fall within competences shared between the EU and the Member States. It follows that the FTA with Singapore can, as it stands, be concluded only by the EU and its Member States acting together.
In particular, the Court declares that the EU has exclusive competence so far as concerns the parts of the FTA relating to the following matters:
access to EU market and the Singapore market so far as concerns goods and services, and in the fields of public procurement and of energy generation from sustainable non-fossil sources;
the provisions concerning protection of direct foreign investments of Singapore nationals in the EU (and vice versa);
the provisions concerning intellectual property rights;
the provisions designed to combat anti-competitive activity and to lay down a framework for concentrations, monopolies and subsidies;
the provisions concerning sustainable development;
the rules relating to exchange of information and to obligations governing notification, verification, cooperation, mediation, transparency and dispute settlement between the Parties, unless those rules related to the field of non-direct foreign investment.
Ultimately, it is in respect of only two aspects of the FTA that - according to the ECJ - the Union is not endowed with exclusive competences, namely the field of non-direct foreign investments and the regime governing dispute settlement between investors and States.
European Commission's report on the latest round of trade talks with Mercosur10/04/2017
The Commission today published a Report summarising the progress made during the latest round of negotiations for a Trade Agreement between the European Union and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) which took place in Buenos Aires during the week of 20th March.
More information on the EU-Japan talks are available on EU Trade's website.
2017 Rome Declaration25/03/2017
On 25th March 2017, the leaders of 27 Member States and of the EU institutions adopted a solemn Declaration to relaunch the political process of the European Union. Among the other priorities, the leaders have stressed the need to strenghten the role played by the Union on the global stage, by promoting, inter alia, free and fair trade.
Commitment for an early conclusion of EU-Japan FTA negotiations17/02/2017
Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Fumio Kishida met on 17th February 2017 in Bonn to discuss the way forward for the negotiation of a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Japan. Both parties reaffirmed their commitment to reach a highly comprehensive and ambitious agreement as early as possible.
'Negotiations are very advanced. While it was not possible to conclude by the end of 2016, as we had hoped, tremendous progress has been registered over the last few months. As often in a negotiation, the few remaining issues are the most difficult to be solved, but I am confident that the distance between our respective positions can be bridged soon', said Commissioner Malmström.
European Parliament approves CETA15/02/2017
Along with CETA, the European Parliament has also given the green light to the conclusion of an EU-Canada Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA), for further developing bilateral cooperation on non-trade issues.
Having been previously declared a mixed agreement by the Commission, CETA needs now to be ratified by all Member States, in accordance with their constitutional requirements. CETA could become provisionally applicable the first day of the second month following the notification of completion of internal procedure by both parties, and possibly as of April 2017.
More information on the negotiation process, content and impact of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement can be found here.
The EU has an exclusive competence to conclude the Marrakesh Treaty on access to published works for persons who are visually impaired14/02/2017
The Marrakesh Treaty requires the contracting States to provide in their national law that certain entities (government institutions and non-profit organisations which provide services relating to education, instructional training, adaptive reading or information access) may, without the authorisation of the rightholder, reproduce or distribute copies of published works in a format which gives access to the works for persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled (referred to in the treaty as ‘beneficiary persons’). The contracting States must also promote the cross-border exchange of accessible format copies by permitting certain imports and exports of those copies. In 2012 the Council authorised the Commission to participate, on behalf of the EU, in negotiations within the framework of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on the future Marrakesh Treaty. The Treaty was adopted on 27th June 2013. Taking the view that the EU itself (without the participation of the Member States) could conclude the Marrakesh Treaty, the Commission put forward a proposal for a decision on the conclusion of the treaty: that decision was not adopted by the Council.
The Commission then asked the Court of Justice to give its Opinion on whether the Marrakesh Treaty may be concluded by the EU acting on its own or whether the participation of the Member States is necessary for that purpose. Eight Member States, which consider that the EU does not have exclusive competence to conclude the Marrakesh Treaty in its entirety and that, their participation is therefore necessary, have taken part in the Opinion procedure.
In its Opinion, the Court examines whether the Marrakesh Treaty is connected with the common commercial policy, which, under the FEU Treaty, falls within the exclusive competence of the EU. The Court concludes that the Marrakesh Treaty does not come within the ambit of the common commercial policy. Next, the Court recalls that the EU also has exclusive competence when the conclusion of an international agreement may affect ‘common rules’ or alter their scope. The Court thus considers whether that is the case of the Marrakesh Treaty. The Court states in that regard that the EU Directive on copyright permits Member States which wish to do so to introduce –– for the benefit of persons with a disability –– an exception or limitation to the rights of reproduction and communication to the public. It follows that the exception or limitation provided for by the Marrakesh Treaty will have to be implemented within the area harmonised by the directive. The same is true of the import and export arrangements prescribed by the Treaty, inasmuch as they are intended to permit the communication to the public or the distribution, in the territory of a contracting State, of accessible format copies published in another contracting State, without the consent of the rightholders being obtained. The Court points out in that regard that, while the Member States have the option under the Directive of introducing such an exception or limitation, that option is granted by the EU legislature and is highly circumscribed by various requirements of EU law. The Court also states that, unlike the Directive, the Marrakesh Treaty lays down an obligation (not merely an option) to introduce an exception or limitation for the benefit of certain persons with disabilities. The Court thus considers that, once the Treaty is concluded, all the Member States will be required to introduce the exception or limitation for persons with a disability. It follows that the body of obligations laid down by the Marrakesh Treaty falls within an area that is already covered to a large extent by ‘common EU rules’ and that the conclusion of the Treaty may affect those rules or alter their scope.
EU-US joint report on TTIP progress17/01/2017
A joint EU-US Report on the progress made in TTIP talks has been published on 17th January 2017. Although there are some areas where parties found a common ground after several years of negotiations, the most controversial issues, such as how to improve access to public procurement markets, provide a strong investment protection that preserves the right to regulate and reconcile approach to trademarks and geographical indications still remain to be solved. However, EU and US agreed the economic and strategic rationale for an agreement still remains strong.
In the meantime, US President Trump on 23rd January 2017 formally abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was signed by Obama but still had to be approved by the Congress.
AG's opinion on the conclusion of the FTA with Singapore21/12/2016
The European Commission sought an Opinion from the Court of Justice of the EU under Art. 218(11)TFEU on the allocation of competences between the EU and the Member States as regards concluding the Free Trade Agreement envisaged between the EU and the Republic of Singapore (EFSTA). The legal issue as to who is competent to conclude these new generation agreements – such as the TTIP – has raised a considerable debate and public attention.
On the one hand the Commission argued the EU has an exclusive competence; on the other hand, both the Council and the Governments of Member States contended there are certain parts in these agreements that fall within the shared competences between the EU and Member States and, for this reason, cannot tolerate to be concluded by the Union itself but request a joint action with the Member States.
Advocate General Sharpston’s opinion in the Opinion procedure 2/15 is particularly significant. After setting out the principles established by the Court’s case law - partially codified by the Treaties – in relation to EU exclusive and shared competences with the Member States, she applies them to the EU FTA with Singapore, with a Chapter by Chapter analysis. According to the Advocate General, not all parts of the envisaged Agreement fall within the EU’s exclusive competence and therefore the Agreement cannot be concluded without the participation of all of the Member States.
EP's opinion on Draft Council Decision on the conclusion of CETA08/12/2016
The European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, on 8th December 2016, issued an Opinion on the Draft Council Decision on the conclusion of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The Committee criticized the contents of the Agreement and called on the EP Committee on International Trade to decline to give its consent to the proposal for a Council decision on the conclusion of the CETA.
79th Inter-Parliamentary meeting of Transatlantic Legislators’ Dialogue29/11/2016
The members of the US House of Representatives and European Parliament, on 29th November 2016 during the 79th inter-parliamentary meeting of transatlantic legislators’ dialogue, exchanged views on the current and political prospects and challenges for the EU and US relation. Notwithstanding the complexity of their relation, EU and US renewed their commitments towards a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and encouraged negotiators to secure the consolidated texts.
TTIP Advisory Group meeting22/11/2016
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Advisory Group, launched in 2014 to provide EU Trade negotiators with high quality advice in the areas being negotiated, met on 22nd November 2016, where the Chair updated the Group on the situation regarding TTIP. Not only the election of Donald J. Trump led to many uncertainties, but also, according to the Report, further work has to be undertaken in technical areas after the 15th round of negotiations. EU-US trade relations are important and to maintain a forward looking trade agenda is a primary issue, even if no negotiation is ongoing. It is worth noting how the Group stressed the importance, for the impact on TTIP, of both the legal developments of CETA in relation to the role that Member States would have in its provisional application and the Opinion 2/15 of the Court of Justice of the European Union on the Free Trade Agreement with Singapore that will be delivered in 2017.
Council meeting after US elections11/11/2016
After 8th November 2016, which saw the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States, a new era has begun for US trade agreements. USA is the partner of the EU in the negotiation of the ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which was set to be concluded before the end of Obama’s mandate. After Trump’s election, whose opinion on US foreign trade policy has never been a mystery, the Council, in its meeting of 11th November 2016, reviewed developments in TTIP negotiations and stated that the next steps would be assessed once the US Administration has taken place.
CETA signature and provisional application28/10/2016
On 28th October 2016 the Council adopted the Decision 2017/37 on the signing on behalf of the European Union of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada, of the one part, and the European Union and its Member States, of the other part together with the Decision 2017/38 on its provisional application.
On 5th July 2016 the European Commission has proposed to conclude CETA as a mixed agreement, so that the final text of the Treaty has to be approved by the European Union together with all 28 Member States. During the procedure described by Art. 218 TFEU and Art. 207 TFEU, while the nationals parliaments are in the process of ratifying CETA, some articles of the treaty will be provisionally applied, as provided by Art. 30(7)(3) of the Agreement. A few days later, on 30th October 2016, CETA has been signed.
CETA joint interpretative instrument approved by COREPER19/10/2016
On 19th October 2016 the Parliament of Wallonia blocked the Belgium ratification process of CETA because Walloon Parliamentarians stated their refusal to the signature of the Agreement. After two weeks of talks between European Union Institutions and Walloon Parliament, an agreement was reached on 27th October 2016, when a Joint Interpretative Instrument and the Intra-Belgium Statement was approved by COREPER. The former is a permanent instrument for the interpretation of the CETA provisions, which is binding under Article 31 of Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties. According to the Joint Interpretative Instrument, CETA will not lower the standard of consumer protection, the regulatory cooperation will remain on a voluntary basis, and both Canada and Member States will maintain their sovereignty on public health, social services, education and environment. Lastly, it faces the controversial institution of the Investment Court System (ICS) and emphasizes how this new dispute resolution system will not be more favorable for foreign investors than for the domestic investors.
TTIP Advisory Group meeting report18/10/2016
On 18th October 2016 the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Advisory Group published a Meeting Report describing the state of play of TTIP and CETA. Although there haven’t been important turning point in the negotiation, some relevant topic were discussed: Investment Court system, cars, wine and spirits and the possible new strategies in the light of the United States Presidential Election.
15th round of TTIP negotiation07/10/2016
From 3rd to 7th October 2016 the 15th round of TTIP negotiation took place in New York, without any particular progress regarding controversial topic like the issues related to the regulatory cooperation, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, liberalization of services, the regulation of public procurement, the investment chapter and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The EU negotiating texts have been released on the Commission's website.
Bratislava informal Council meeting23/09/2016
During the informal Council Meeting of 23rd September 2016 in Bratislava, the French Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl together with the Austrian Minister for Economy, Reinhold Mitterlehner, proposed to suspend TTIP negotiation until the United States Presidential Election. Although there were different feelings about TTIP talks, the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico declared that TTIP negotiations would continue. However, he also stressed that it would be unrealistic to finalise an agreement before the end of US President Obama’s mandate. Once again Member States reaffirmed their support to the European Commission and gave the green light to a new round of negotiation.
Letter of support from Member States to Malmström14/09/2016
Right after the summer break, European politicians started to question quite seriously the outcomes of TTIP negotiation. The still pending issues of the TTIP talks, together with the incoming United States presidential election, led government leaders to doubt about the conclusion of the negotiation by the end of 2016. In response to this general skepticism, of which Simon Gabriel declaration is the most famous example (released on 28th August 2016), on 14th September 2016 twelve Member States (Sweden, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania, Latvia, Ireland, Estonia, Finland, Czech Republic, Denmark and United Kingdom) decided to restate in a letter for the Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, their support to the European Commission trade policy, expressing approval for CETA negotiation results and hoping a future for TTIP.
Legal Ambiguities withstanding Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership is a Jean Monnet Network.
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