WASHINGTON — The U.S. made a new regulatory proposal on textiles during the latest round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations in New York this week, as negotiators stressed that they plan to continue the talks despite facing headwinds.
Negotiators met against the backdrop of antitrade fervor against T-TIP sweeping parts of Europe and a vote by the U.K.to leave the European Union, which has complicated the the talks.
They are also facing the uncertainty associated with the end of the Obama administration and a transition in the U.S. to a new president who will take office early next year. Both U.S. presidential candidates have railed against the negative consequences of trade and another trade deal — the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
“We have heard some skeptical voices about T-TIP recently, but I want to emphasize that the U.S. remains fully engaged in the negotiations and is as committed as ever to their success,” Dan Mullaney, assistant U.S. Trade Representative and chief negotiator for the U.S., said on a press call. “We remain ready to move forward on an agreement that is in our mutual economic interests.”
Ignacio Garcia Bercero, the EU’s chief negotiator, said, “We have been making very good progress this year and in our current negotiating round. We can still make progress before the change of the administration [in the U.S.]. The political environment for trade is challenging. It is challenging in Europe and it is challenging in the U.S. That means it is of critical importance to continue toengage with citizens [about the benefits of globalization].”
T-TIP holds potential for brands and retailers in many areas, including tariff elimination, regulatory streamlining and the removal of trade barriers. Negotiators agreed in earlier rounds to immediately eliminate duties on 97 percent of trade in goods across the Atlantic. The other 3 percent of trade will be subject to longer tariff phaseouts on sensitive products that are currently under negotiation.
U.S. and European fashion industry associations have been pressing negotiators to streamline, simplify or eliminate duplicative and burdensome labeling and product safety requirements.
Mullaney said the U.S. made several proposals, including one on textiles, during the 15th round of T-TIP negotiations in New York this week.
“The U.S. delegation came to this round prepared to push forward across the broad range of negotiating areas and, in fact, we have done that. We have made excellent progress over the past few days,” Mullaney said. “We [made] a number of new texts just before and during this round, including on rules of origin, autos, intellectual property, trade remedies and textiles. We had a good discussion of these proposals this week.”
Asked to elaborate on the textile proposal, Mullaney said there were conversations about “what we can do in the area of regulatory compatibility in the textile area.”
Garcia Becero said the EU made a textile proposal in July on regulatory cooperation.
“The discussions on regulatory issues on textiles have been extremely productive, very constructive,” he said in response to a question. “The issue about regulatory cooperation between the U.S. and European Union on names for fibers is one of the issues that is being discussed.”
U.S. and European fashion groups have outlined several areas where regulatory differences between the U.S. and EU force brands and retailers on both sides of the Atlantic to do additional testing on products on the product safety side. On the labeling side, regulatory differences require companies to provide labels in several languages or meet different requirements ranging from care symbols to animal origin disclosures to chemical disclosures and warnings.
Mullaney said negotiators also discussed textile rules of origin, another important area for retailers and apparel brands.
“We also had discussions on rules of origin, broadly speaking across all products that would be subject to a trade agreement, but particularly in the textile area and had some very good conversations about how we can bring our two different approaches to rules of origin in that area closer together,” Mullaney said.