“Non-tariff barriers on the US market are raising costs for EU exporters by 10-15%. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would remove these extra costs and make European producers more competitive” argued Dita Charanzová, Czech MEP in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group during a working lunch with Czech journalists in Prague.
According to Charanzová, the European Parliament is roughly split in half in its support for TTIP. The social-democrat group will most probably be the swaying power, however, even the position of ALDE MEPs is not clear yet on all issues related to TTIP. Most committees are currently finishing up their reports on TTIP. The report drafted by Charanzová in the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection was approved by a thin majority of 20 votes in favour and 18 against. All reports are now being passed on to the Committee on International Trade, which will take them into consideration in drafting its final position on the TTIP negotiations.
ISDS remains controversial issue
The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) remains one of the most controversial issues especially for several Western EU member states. ISDS is stirring fears as it could grant foreign investors the right to claim damages against the state before international arbitral tribunals. Yet, the Czech Republic may, in fact, profit from ISDS clauses in TTIP as it has an outdated bilateral investment protection agreement with the USA from the early 1990s. Back then, the Czech Republic was eager to attract foreign direct investments and agreed to rather harsh conditions in terms of investment protection.
Charanzová shared her dissatisfaction on the state of the public debate. During the public consultation, the European Commission gathered about 1 500 responses; a vast majority being negative. As a consequence, the communication of the EC turned rather defensive. It is now up to TTIP supporters, Charanzová said, to step up and explain in a clear and simple way how the general public as well as SMEs can benefit from it. Not only economic aspects, but also the new geopolitical situation in Europe should be taken into consideration.
Development of the digital market
In the second part of the lunch, Charanzová focused on the Digital Agenda. In May 2015, the Commission will present its plan on how to enhance the functioning of the Digital Single Market. It will cover a wide area including digital literacy, digital infrastructure, e-government and the digital economy. The Czech Republic scores well in most categories except for e-government.
In the area of e-commerce, there are several obstacles that hinder the development of a digital internal market. Various regulatory disparities exist among EU member states, leading to burdensome administration of VAT in different member states and different legal conditions for e-commerce contracts. Other problems include geo-blocking or unreasonable costs for delivery of cross-border supplies. For example, it costs much more to deliver a package from Berlin to Prague than from Berlin to Munich, although the distance to the Czech capital is shorter.
The series of working lunches continues in mid-April with Jan Mikloš, former Slovakian Minister of Finance and driver of successful liberal reforms, who is currently advisor to the Ukrainian government.