Hatch sets new conditions on TTIP, calls for UK trade pact

14 July 2016. By Ira Teinowitz.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch on Wednesday set controversial new conditions for what would qualify as an acceptable agreement with the EU on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as he commented on the need for the need for a new trade agreement with the United Kingdom in the wake of the Brexit vote.

In a statement for the Congressional Record, Hatch said that any TTIP agreement would have to open financial services to competition, ease barriers to digital trade and ease limits on US companies’ ability to market US products using terms that the EU regards as geographical indicators.

One of the major issues in TTIP talks has been the EU’s push to expand the use of its geographical indicators to protect additional products. US companies have suggested the geographical indicators — for products such as “feta” cheese — amount to trade barriers that unfairly discriminate against American products that in some cases have been produced for years by the families of immigrants.

Hatch, in his statement, pointed to four conditions for any TTIP agreement to win congressional approval.

“The agreement must have provisions that provide strong market access for agricultural products, including through the elimination of discriminatory geographical indication practices and unjustified sanitary and phytosanitary standards,” he said.

“Second, the agreement must be comprehensive and not exclude any products or economic sectors,” he said pointing especially to any attempt to exempt services, including audiovisual or financial services.

Hatch said “both the market access and the regulatory scope of the agreement should address financial services.”

He said TTIP “must reflect the highest standards of protection for intellectual property rights” without jeopardizing “our country’s ability to achieve high levels of intellectual property protection in other markets or in other negotiations.

Finally he said any agreement “must address barriers to digital trade, including discriminatory treatment of digital products and barriers that inhibit the free flow of digital data, such as forced data localization policies.”

“The agreement must ensure that all products, services, and technologies are given the chance to compete in the marketplace,” he said.

The Utah senator’s also said that Brexit — the UK’s departure from the European Union — will mean the US needs to negotiate a separate trade agreement with the UK.

Hatch and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, on Wednesday formally introduced a joint congressional resolution calling for a new trade agreement with the UK.

Hatch in his statement said the US needs to “fortify” its relationship with the UK in the wake of the Brexit vote.

“The US must continue to show strong support for the important and longstanding relationship that our country enjoys with the UK,” he said.

He said the resolution calls upon the president to consult with the Congress regarding opportunities to further economic and commercial activity and cooperation between the US and the UK, including considering a trade agreement — but only one that adheres “to the high standards outlined in the recently enacted TPA law, which established very specific objectives regarding the negotiation of trade agreements.”

Hatch in the statement reiterated his view that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement “falls short” of what would be acceptable to Congress, but added that the Obama administration could ease concerns by negotiating enforcement provisions with the 11 other countries in TPP.

“I am committed to working with the administration to help to improve on those shortcomings,” said Hatch. “In the meantime, it is essential that the administration begin to work with our TPP partners to develop meaningful country-specific implementation commitments.”

He said the Obama administration should also insist other countries take important steps to comply with requirements of TPP before it is put into effect.

“It is an unfortunate fact that the Obama Administration has allowed free trade agreements to enter into force before ensuring that our partners have taken all steps necessary to comply with their obligations under the agreements,” he said. “ It is clear that more confidence regarding effective implementation of trade agreements will be necessary before the Congress approves TPP.