Today, I'm meeting my counterparts from all EU governments in the Foreign Affairs Council on Trade. We meet regularly to discuss EU trade policy and the way forward on a long row of issues. The agenda today was long, as there are a lot of things happening.
We had a very good discussion on how to move forward on WTO, building on the momentum created after the ministerial conference in Nairobi. There is a new optimism about the multilateral trade path, which we should seek to explore. We are also discussing the steel crisis and our trade defence instruments today. Following the constructive trilogue talks on so-called conflict minerals, this issue is also discussed in Council today in order to try to find a way forward to conclude this very important file. The Dutch presidency is doing a very important job here. Yet another issue we have talked in Council was the recent exchange of market access offers between the EU and trade bloc Mercosur.
I also consult Member States in the Council on all parts of our negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US. From the start, we have a clear negotiating mandate from all EU governments, making clear that we should open up access to the US market and create new opportunities for EU companies, while fully safeguarding our standards of protection. Today, as always, I informed ministers about the status of our talks on both the political and technical level, with the next round scheduled to take place in July.
Another important aspect of our TTIP negotiations is the involvement of civil society. As part of that process, an independent consultant carries out a sustainability impact assessment (SIA) on TTIP for the EU. Today, this consultant (Ecorys) publishes its draft interim report for public consultation.
In essence, this is a snapshot based on assumptions about a future TTIP deal. Needless to say, being a draft version to now be scrutinised by stakeholders and others, this assessment should be taken with a pinch of salt. The economic analysis is based on modelling, with many assumptions and caveats. We should thus be cautious when analysing numbers, especially when it comes to things like market data that may depend on many other factors. That being said, the report does highlight the many opportunities TTIP presents for the EU. For example, it points out that a rise of 27 percent in EU exports to the US can be expected, along with raised wages for both higher and lower skilled workers. The draft report also indicates that all EU Member States’ economies would grow as a result of such a trade agreement, in particular Ireland by 1.4% of its GDP, Belgium by 1.2%, Lithuania by 1.1% and Austria by 0.9%. The study points out sectors sensitive to increased competitiveness and offers case studies on potential impact on health or the environment.
For this draft version of the report, hundreds of stakeholders were consulted, including NGOs, trade unions, environmental groups and smaller businesses. Now, however, everyone will have an equal opportunity to scrutinise the study and comment on it - all of which will build into a final report which Ecorys will publish towards the end of this year.
Of course, this draft interim report is not the only tool we have or use to assess the potential impact of TTIP. For instance, we have also set up an Advisory Group consisting of representatives of civil society, and we keep our doors open to all who want to share their ideas and experience with us. We want to be driven by evidence and have a full range of views at our disposal.
I believe one particular thing cannot be scientifically captured in any study, however - the impact of TTIP on Europe's ability to shape globalisation according to our own standards. Modern trade agreements are one of the tools at our disposal to shape globalisation, making it more responsible. With this in mind, both TTIP as well as our trade agreement with Canada (CETA) aim to include progressive chapters on sustainable development, including on labour rights and the environment.
To be fit for the 21st century, negotiations on any trade deal must be as transparent as possible, and open for dialogue. A Civil Society Dialogue about the draft interim sustainability impact assessment will take place on 30 May in Brussels - register for the event here, and submit your comments on the report. The better the quality of the final study, the better we can try to scientifically grasp the impact of this trade agreement. This, in turn, helps to guide our negotiators by highlighting risks and opportunities.