TTIP pits Prague against Paris
12. 9. 2016 | Source: BusinessInfo.cz
Czech gov’t is fighting attempts to scrap trade deal talks with the US.
The Czech Republic is pushing for the European Commission (EC) to continue its negotiations with Washington over formulating a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). “We will be against any attempts at stopping the negotiations with the US,” trade and industry minister Jan Mládek told E15 daily prior to this month’s informal meeting of EU trade ministers.
The gathering in Bratislava on 23 September is to be briefed by the EC on the progression of the talks. French foreign trade minister Matthias Fekl has requested that the EC halt the TTIP talks, while German economy minister Sigmar Gabriel has declared that they are “de facto dead”. Also against continuation is Austrian economy minister Reinhold Mitterlehner.
Mládek attributed the blame for the current wave of TTIP opposition from influential European politicians to the British referendum vote for the UK to leave the EU. “In the EU there’s a group of countries which support free trade, among whom is Czechia. Lined up with this group is Great Britain. Now that Britain is half-out [of EU affairs], the group has been greatly weakened and in the other countries there is a prevailing protectionist tendency,” said Mládek. If the aversion to freeing up international trade comes to predominate in the EU, it could pose a danger to the Czech Republic’s interests. “We always earn from free trade. The problem is that we cannot find another big ally like Great Britain in the EU,” added Mládek.
Mládek discussed the outlook for the TTIP negotiations with fellow ministers during the latest government session. No opposition to continuing with the talks was voiced. The Czech Republic could see its GDP lifted by some tenths of a percentage point should the trade and investment deal be passed, according to a study conducted by the trade and industry ministry.
Fekl and Gabriel stated that they could not continue pursuing the TTIP because the Americans would not agree to concessions requested by EU negotiators. Verifying their assertion is not possible because the negotiators are presently restricted to making general statements on how the talks are moving ahead. Access to documentation is only available, under a restrictive regime, to member state representatives and MEPs.
“It is rather a political problem. For a number of political parties it would be difficult to face a new protest movement,” said Mládek. Germany and France are building up to 2017 parliamentary and presidential elections. Trade unions, environmental groups and green parties are protesting strongly against making the deal with the US.
Originally published in E15 weekly, economic and business newsmagazine. Author: Pavel Otto