Latvia's EU Presidency pushes landmark trade deal

Diplomacy returns to full throttle in Riga over the next few days with a series of ministers and other officials breezing in and out to discuss trade and competitiveness. 

Things kicked off on Thursday with an informal meeting of EU member state trade ministers.

Top of the agenda was the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement being negotiated between the European Union and the United States.

Chairing the meeting, Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said progress on getting the free trade deal signed was being hampered by the spread of "myths and stereotypes that are not true" by opponents of the deal.

He also signalled that TTIP was unlikely to be signed by the end of this year, saying: “I believe that we have made some progress in aligning our opinions, we are approaching a common understanding in the EU and in our negotiations with the United states.

"Of course, during our Presidency and most likely during the next Presidency of Luxembourg, these negotiations will not be concluded, but from our side, during the Presidency we will show that we are ready to offer our help."

"The general mood in the council is that we have to do our best to get to the agreement... but we also don't want the agreement just for the sake of the agreement at that timeline. We also have our publics, we have our interests and we have to take that into account."

"We have been discussing the overall strategy how to achieve the agreement but we cannot exclude that it my take longer. The political will is there but in order to tango you need two."

"The understanding is there that it may take longer, that this is not an agreement for the sake of an agreement it's an agreement which has to be a good agreement."

EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the sheer scale of the deal made quick progress unlikley.

"When you negotiate such an ambitious agreement as we do with the US – it's the most ambitious agreement ever – you cannot put a date. When it's done, it's done and not before. We are aiming on both sides to conclude this under the Obama administration. That depends on the speed of the actual negotiation and there are lots of politics playing in – for instance an electoral agenda in the US," Malmstrom said.

The press conference of the two officials can be viewed here.

On Thursday and Friday attention turns to ministers with a competitiveness brief who will be holding a two-day session discussing digital economy. 

 

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