The Slovenia Times

Committee okays talks on no-tariff deal between EU and US


The government's opinion is that the agreement must be signed under the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and that the issue of the still valid mandate for the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which have come to a standstill under the Trump administration, should be adequately addressed.

What should also be addressed is the withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate deal, while the negotiations must not take place under the pressure of threats by the Trump administration with the introduction of protectionist trade measures.

Slovenia expects that, after the negotiations are concluded, the US will eliminate tariffs on the imports of steel and aluminium from the EU and that the US will not introduce unwarranted new measures.

The government's opinion is that, if the US do that or fail to respect the agreement between President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker from 25 July 2018 in any other way, the negotiations should be suspended.

Slovenia also supports in principle the recommendation to the EU members to give the European Commission the mandate to start talks with the US on an agreement which would unify and simplify the procedures to establish compliance of EU products in the US and vice versa.

The government supports voluntary regulatory cooperation with the consideration of autonomy of both sides and the highest possible level of transparency.

The government's opinion was presented by Economy Ministry State Secretary Aleš Cantarutti, who noted that the proposed guidelines for negotiations based on the Trump-Juncker agreement envisaged the conclusion of a standard agreement on free trade, which would be in the exclusive jurisdiction of the EU.

It would be a sectoral agreement which would relate only to industrial products, and not also to agricultural products, which were the main stumbling stone in the TTIP negotiations for many EU members, including Slovenia, he added.

Cantarutti said that tariffs would be abolished gradually and reciprocally, with a short transitional period. The US and EU will still be able to take protective and anti-dumping measures in compliance with the WTO rules. An investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism is also envisaged.

The mutual tariffs for industrial goods are already very low, but their elimination would significantly improve trade flows, said Cantarutti, referring to an analysis by the European Commission, which shows that exports from the EU to the US would increase by 8%, and by 9% vice versa.

The state secretary said there was no analysis of the potential impact of the agreement on Slovenia, but he added that it would bring new opportunities, which would need to be realised by companies and state institutions.

Announcing that the Economy Ministry would make an analysis for Slovenia, Cantarutti noted that trade between Slovenia and the US exceeded EUR 1.1bn last year, with Slovenia recording a EUR 19m trade surplus.

The Left, the government's tentative partner from the opposition, is against the government's approval for the negotiations. Its MP Boštjan Koražija said that the party had the "feeling that the talks pave the way for the adoption of the most problematic aspects of the TTIP through the back door."

Koražija noted that the European Commission had already approved higher imports of soy and shale gas from the US, which was an import of environmentally disputable elements of the TTIP. The party is also afraid that the talks will lack transparency. Similar views were presented by Andrej Gnezda of the environmental NGO Umanotera.

Robert Polnar of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) meanwhile said that the objectives of the negotiations were good, while noting that the problem was that the two sides understand the starting points regarding the scope of the negotiations differently.

Gregor Perič of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) finds it important that dialogue has started "in these unpredictable times". He believes that the responsible institutions would take into consideration the experience from the TTIP negotiations.


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