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10 March 2016

TTIP negotiators reaffirm 2016 goal

Negotiators for a bilateral EU-US trade and investment pact reaffirmed last Friday that they hope to conclude their talks this year, so long as this does not involve a compromise on quality. 

Notable from the 22-26 February round, was the fact that both sides now have on the table their proposals for the investment protection terms of the pact, as well as for a sustainable development chapter. Officials from both sides say that the discussions on investment protection and sustainable development are still in the early stages.

Given the goal of reaching a deal this year, officials outlined last Friday a series of milestones toward meeting this goal. This will entail two additional negotiating rounds between now and summer, with continued contact between teams and top officials in between, according to EU Chief Negotiator Ignacio García Bercero. 

CFTA negotiators establish their launch pad

The first meeting of the Continental Free Trade Area Negotiating Forum (CFTA-NF) laid the groundwork for upcoming substantive negotiations on Africa’s largest free trade area. This meeting was the first negotiating session since the establishment of the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA). 

The meeting kicked off on 22 February with a two-day workshop for member states and other stakeholders in order to strengthen the capacity of chief negotiators on how to support trade negotiations. Experts later discussed post-launch preparatory issues, essential process issues, and technical documents that will enable the procedure of negotiations. 

The CFTA is a complex institutional and legal structure and the first CFTA-NF meeting is important in relation to the technical preparations for the CFTA negotiations.

US and AGOA trade continues to decline

Total trade between the US and countries supported under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) showed another decrease in 2015, according to data published by the AGOA.info website. Combined trade, which came to US$50 billion in 2014, only reached US$36 billion in 2015. 

Trade between the US and AGOA countries has now been declining for four years in a row. The reduction of trade in 2015 was caused by a lowering of trade from both sides.

AGOA, which is considered to be the central pillar of economic relations between the US and Sub-Saharan Africa, provides duty-free and quota-free access to the US market for over 6,000 products. However, there is no agreement regarding the scale of benefits that African countries have been able to gain from AGOA to date. 

WTO members eye new negotiating landscape 

WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo told ambassadors that they need to “acknowledge their differences,” during the first informal meeting on 10 February of top Geneva-based negotiators since the global trade body’s ministerial conference last December. 

Trade sources said that several officials at the meeting had expressed disappointment that the negotiating process in Nairobi was not more inclusive. Negotiators told Bridges that African countries in particular felt that the final stage of talks had been dominated by five major trading powers—Brazil, China, India, the EU, and the US.

Sources told Bridges that unresolved issues on agricultural domestic support and market access were likely to remain high on the WTO agenda. Meanwhile, the progress at Nairobi on export competition could mean that this topic receives less attention in the months ahead.

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