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Karel De Gucht
European Commissioner for Trade
Remarks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
Plenary debate of the European Parliament on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership/ Strasbourg
22 May 2013
From the outset, let me underline the importance of this Parliament's interest, commitment and contribution to preparations for negotiations of a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). I thank Professor Moreira as rapporteur for the Committee on International Trade (INTA) for the work done so far. Since our last debate in October, you will have been pleased with the final report of the High Level Working Group. The elements that were important to you are in it.
The Commission broadly welcomes the draft Resolution that you have prepared in the context of the mandate discussions. It is constructive and I see it as firm support towards launching negotiations along the lines of the High Level Working Group report. Our objectives for the negotiating directives are to have a broad text that gives us the necessary negotiating flexibility. Otherwise, we will never be able to also obtain concessions from the Americans. This means we should at all costs avoid taking issues off the table before negotiations even start. But let me be clear: this does not mean that there will be no red-lines during negotiations. No fundamental EU policy is up for being traded away!
Cultural diversity, as enshrined in Article 167 (paragraph 4) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, is a guiding principle of the Commission's actions, including in the context of trade. The Commission is fully committed to defend this policy in the TTIP negotiations.
Let me be crystal clear with respect to audiovisual services and, in agreement with Commissioner Vassiliou, signal what our red lines will be:
We believe that a full-scale exclusion of audiovisual services from EU commitments in the TTIP negotiations is neither necessary nor justified. Having red-lines does not mean taking entire areas off the table before negotiations have even started. We are deeply convinced that there are more workable solutions than fully excluding the audiovisual sector while still preserving those red lines. The European Parliament cannot credibly push for certain important sectors of EU interest as mentioned in the resolution and at the same time plea for an exclusion of audiovisual services!
Let me insist that we need to see the broader picture. I think we all agree that these negotiations will be a unique opportunity to make a difference. This deal can create a tremendous impact on jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic without costing “a cent” of tax payers' money – which is something to highlight towards more critical constituencies. If we add to this the fact that safety, health and environmental standards will under no circumstances be lowered, we should have what it takes to convince those who may still have doubts. Now that the process towards launching negotiations is underway both in the US and on our end, what we need – above all – is strong and continued political will from us all. Continued political focus on delivering results across all areas is the single most useful recipe for success. This negotiation is too big to fail and we all have enough things on the table to benefit from. Let’s build on this. I count on your continued constructive support in that direction.