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Final preparations for EU-US Trade and Technology Council take shape

With just over two weeks to go until the inaugural meeting of the Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council, there remain many unanswered questions around just who will attend and the exact issues to be discussed.

The TTC, which came into being following the EU-US Summit in June, is being presented as a political platform to instigate, oversee, and incentivise work on both sides of the Atlantic in order to have a common view on the major challenges such as climate, data, trade, and governance.

The European Commission wants to show it has learnt the lessons from the failed TTIP negotiations and is keen to demonstrate that the TTC is oriented towards problem-solving and focused on concrete deliverables.

Stakeholders will be invited to contribute to the process and provide technical input – including on the ground in Pittsburgh, the location for the inaugural TTC meeting – and meetings with civil society already taking place.

The high-level ministerial TTC meetings are expected to provide a political steer on key policies, with the Working Groups  able to decide how far to drill down to technicalities.

Agenda still under discussion

That the TTC is already scheduled for late September is already being seen by some as testament to its success and evidence of political commitment from both sides.

There is also a view that reaching an early agreement in some areas could provide an impetus to find solutions to stickier issues further down the line.

Yet with just a fortnight remaining, the agenda is still being discussed, and this will determine the precise delegation from the EU at the forthcoming TTC. There is also no news on which Directorates-General will take part.

It is however expected that the EU side will consist of high-level Commission officials, with no-one from the European Parliament expected to attend.

The Council, in the form of the Trade Policy Committee and various other Council Working Groups, is being kept informed, but EU Member States, as with European Parliamentarians, are not expected to travel to Pittsburgh.

Similarly, the membership of the Working Groups is still being worked out and will depend on each Working Group’s scope and, presumably, the availability of key personnel.

Once again, when it comes to the Working Groups, parliamentarians and member state representatives are expected to be left out in the cold.

While the Working Groups will likely convene on a regular basis, there is no clarity as yet on the regularity of TTC meetings. Presumably this will be worked out in Pittsburgh.

Although a key focus of the TTC will be how to deal with “non-market economies”, the transatlantic forum to discuss China will remain the existing EU-US Dialogue on China which is led by the European external Action Service. For similar reasons, the privacy shield is out of the scope of the TTC discussions.

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