Update on negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Last week we participated in the DG Trade Civil Society Dialogue meeting on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The European Commission provided civil society organisations with an update on the seventh round of negotiations. Our first question was if Commissioner Malmström’s statement before the European Parliament that public services are excluded from the scope of TTIP is confirmed. We also asked for clarification about the treatment of social, health and education services: currently, many of these services are contracted out to private providers – both non-profits and businesses – rather than being provided by public authorities, so are these services considered as being public when they are provided by private parties?

The answer was that there is a broad exception for public services as they need to be protected, including public utilities. The negotiations so far ensure specific ‘reservations’ for publicly funded services. When they are privately funded, it is up to member states to decide if they want them to be liberalised or not. The Commission stated that the fact that some services are opened up to competition does not limit or undermine the ability of member state governments to regulate those services. They concluded this point by saying that the approach of the EU and US in relation to public services is very similar.

Our second question was if the negotiations on TTIP might lead to reopening the public procurement directive that was adopted in March this year: meaning that the light regime for social, health and other services provided directly to the person, and the provisions aimed at giving the possibility to public authorities to achieve sustainable development objectives when they buy the goods, works and services they need, might be put into question. The answer was that negotiations build on the EU acquis that includes the new public procurement directive, and accordingly it will not be changed.

Concerning the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), the Commission said that negotiations with the US are suspended until the results of the consultation are known. The Commission hopes to finalise the report on the ISDS consultation before the end of the year, or at the beginning of next year at the latest.

Commissioner Malmström has committed to meeting civil society organisations in the first few months of her mandate. She will be present at the next meeting of the Civil Society Dialogue that will take place on December 4.

The next round of negotiations with the US is scheduled to take place in January, date to be confirmed.