Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Questions (204)

Seán Kenny

Question:

204. Deputy Seán Kenny asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the discussions on the free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States of America; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4269/16]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Jobs)

The eleventh formal round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations took place from the 19–23rOctober, 2015 and a summary of the state of play of the negotiations after that round is available on the European Commission’s website at http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2015/november/tradoc_153935.pdf. During this round, negotiators discussed all three pillars of the proposed agreement namely market access for EU and US companies, regulatory cooperation and trade rules.

There was substantial progress on market access for EU and US companies in all three areas, including tariffs, services and public procurement. A second tariff offer covering trade in goods was exchanged and both sides have now arrived at a level of proposal covering 97% of tariff lines. This will assist and benefit further the negotiations. Both sides agreed on a merged text of their initial proposals on horizontal rules and principles governing product-specific rules of origin. Progress was made on further consolidating the textual proposals and on the general text on trade in goods. Discussions also took place on texts on agricultural market access. There was also discussion in relation to public procurement and it is envisaged that there will be an exchange of market access proposals on public procurement at the next formal round.

All regulatory issues were discussed during this round, including the three horizontal chapters on regulatory cooperation, technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), along with the nine industry specific sectors. Technical progress was made in most areas, though significant work remains ahead. The negotiations also provided an opportunity to clarify some of the main principles of regulatory cooperation. These included the fact that any cooperation is possible only if the level of protection for consumers stays the same or improves and any form of regulatory cooperation will not change or affect the EU regulatory and democratic process.

The third pillar of the negotiation is dedicated to “Rules” and addresses shared trade related issues in areas such as competition between private and public firms, sustainable development, intellectual property rights including geographical indicators, SME’s, trade in raw materials and energy and investment. During the 11 round of negotiations discussions took place on all of these topics. The EU presented its first legal textual proposal for a chapter on Trade and Sustainable Development, including labour and the environment, which covers conservation, sustainable management of resources, wildlife, forestry and fisheries. The European Commission published this proposal on its website on 6 November 2015.

On the 12 November 2015, the EU Commission published and formally presented to the US its proposal for a new and more transparent system for resolving disputes between investors and states – the Investment Court System. This proposal is the outcome of a lengthy public consultation process with the Member States, the European Parliament, stakeholders and the public. The Commission’s proposal aims at safeguarding Government’s right to regulate and creates a new system composed of a first instance tribunal and an appeal mechanism based on clearly defined rules, with qualified judges and transparent proceedings.

An EU-US agreement would be the world’s largest bilateral trade and investment deal, and a successful conclusion is expected to benefit Ireland more than any other EU Member State. Owing to our position as a small open economy, Ireland’s enterprises are particularly well placed to take up opportunities to trade more easily with the US. The key findings of the Copenhagen Economics study, published on the 27 March 2015, are very positive for Ireland indicating a potential impact on the Irish economy of 1.1% increase in GDP. The Irish Economy could grow by 2 billion euros or double the impact on the EU overall. The report suggests a growth in exports of 3.8%, an increase in real wages of 1.5% and an additional 5,000-10,000 export related jobs could be created.

During a Dáil debate on the EU-US free trade negotiations on the 21 January 2016, I announced that a Reading Room will open in my Department in Kildare St. and the consolidated texts of the EU-US agreement will be made available to Oireachtas members. This follows on an agreement on a Protocol between the EU Commission and the US on increasing access to parliamentarians in addition to designated officials

The next formal round for the EU-US free trade negotiations will take place during the week of the 22–26 February 2016.