Fabian Demicoli

GRTU participates at MEUSAC Core Group discussions on the latest developments on TTIP (EU-US Trade Agreement)

TTIP is a wide-ranging agreement between the two largest economic blocs in the world which is expected to reduce trade tariffs and regulatory burdens for commerce between EU Member States and the US. The negotiations have reached the tenth round and have now focused on investment protection and investor-to-state dispute settlement.

The outcomes of the negotiation round concluded in July were presented and discussed at the MEUSAC Core Group. Apart from ISDS and investment protection, the discussions also ensued on market access as well as regulatory aspects in pharmaceutical, cosmetics, energy and SME sectors. A common online platform for business opportunities across the Atlantic for both EU and US companies to access is also envisaged to be developed. An SME Chapter as a key part of the TTIP negotiations was also reported to be providing positive developments.

The European Parliament’s position on ISDS was also highlighted whereby the EP is steering in favour of TTIP yet has raised concerns on the dispute settlement relating to: equal footing between domestic and foreign investors; cases not to be heard behind close doors for transparency concerns; the need for introducing a concrete appeals mechanism; and the need for assuring the independence of arbiters. It was outlined that there have already been similar structures in other agreements with other third-party countries and therefore these should serve as experience to construct an effective and efficient dispute settlement system.

Reacting during the Core Group discussion, GRTU representative Matthew Agius welcomed the positive achievements reported in the TTIP negotiations as this agreement is expected to provide ground-breaking openness and opportunity particularly for businesses from specific sectors by reducing tariffs and excessive burdens. Nevertheless he also accentuated the need for such high-level negotiations to be watered down to small businesses and the self-employed as otherwise any possible benefits and effects will not be tapped into by Maltese businesses. In so doing, Maltese businesses need to be equipped from day one when the agreement comes into force to be able to reap the investment potential alongside, or better still, before their European counterparts.

GRTU further added that it is essential to ensure that TTIP negotiations are undertaken through the perspective of small businesses. The details of these high-level negotiations conducted by the highest officials from both sides of the Atlantic will be affecting the micro-businesses which run our economy. It is essential therefore that such details being discussed about important matters such as dispute settlement are entered into detail and are addressed with this in mind. It is important to establish a fair and accessible system which will at the end of the day serve fair and just results rather than the purposes of multinational companies who afford to dedicate exhaustive resources into details against the interests of the smaller businesses.

 

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