WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The 13th round of EU-US talks on the TTIP deal started in the United States on Monday, a day after Obama said during a visit to Germany that the TTIP should be signed by the end of the year. German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported Obama’s call to speed up the signing of the agreement.
"How does he [Obama] sell the deal? I don’t think he can," Bhala said on Monday asked if Obama could persuade German and other EU publics to support TTIP. "I am not an expert on European public opinion, but it seems even more hostile to trade deals than US public opinion."
It is not impossible to sell the TTIP agreement, Bhala noted, but it is unlikely Obama can do it before he leaves office especially considering countries like Germany put such a high value on food safety and public health, differences that the United States and EU are unlikely to resolve quickly.
"The EU does not like genetically modified organisms and we [the United States] tend to have it in most of our products," he explained. "There really is no meeting of the minds yet."
European governments, Bhala added, have their own credibility problem because during the mad cow disease scare several years ago, European leaders kept telling their populations that the beef supply was safe, although it wasn’t.
EU food safety concerns, however, could be addressed during TTIP negotiations in a “side letter”, Bhala claimed, wherein each party maintains its own regulations while committing to work towards a compromise.
“Then in the side letter you set up a committee on food safety that meets once a year to decide how the United States and EU could converge, if not harmonize, their stance on say genetically modified [food]content,” Bhala explained.
The crux of the dilemma, Bhala continued, is that US negotiators are more interested in market access and minimal state intervention than their European counterparts.
“The Europeans are much more comfortable with state regulation in the public interest even if it diminishes efficiency or even if it means… less consumer choices at higher prices,” Bhala noted.
TTIP has drawn criticism from the public for the lack of transparency in its negotiations and the power it would give to international corporations. It has also been slammed for bypassing the framework of the World Trade Organization and excluding BRICS countries, while leaked details of the deal show that it might undermine environmental, health, safety and labor standards.