The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) organized a seminar in Brussels this week entitled: "Do we need an Energy chapter in the TTIP?" as one of the initiatives integrated in the monitoring work of the Transatlantic Relations Follow-Up Committee, chaired by its President, Mr. Jacek Krawczyk, also President of the EESC Employers' Group.
The main objective of the seminar was to assess together with other civil society stakeholders the need to include in the negotiations a chapter on energy and raw materials, subject which is still not prominently discussed in the talks for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) after already three year of negotiations.
Mr. Jacek Krawczyk, opened the discussion by quoting the remarks of President of the USA, Mr. Obama in Hannover this year: "when others would use trade and energy as a weapon, TTIP would help Europe diversify energy markets and increase energy security", and by saying that: "we will use it to unite and to promote world's peace and prosperity".
Mr. Jerzy Buzek, Member of the European Parliament, and Chair of the EP Committee on Industry, research and Energy (ITRE), answered by clearly saying that this chapter will boost the opening of markets, diversification and efficiency and "is absolutely necessary for three reasons: geopolitical, economic and environmental.” Mr Buzek insisted that the energy is not a simple commodity; but it is linked with national security. He also pointed out the need for business legal certainty and harmonized rules. He insisted that an energy chapter, more than any other, has to be as transparent and comprehensive as possible by citizens. Thirdly, he insisted that the EU and the US have to give a clear sign to the international community since energy activities are responsible for 80% of world's environmental problems!"
Mr. Hiddo Houben, EU Deputy Chief Negotiator for TTIP, stated that all Member States agreed on starting these negotiations, in a balanced and high standard manner, towards a new generation agreement. Why a separate chapter? For energetic, technological and security reasons. He pointed out that TTIP is necessary to regulate low carbon economies in order to promote sustainability and green policies. He reminded that the USA is a major conventional energies producer because of developing of fracking, but today technological development makes that costs of wind and solar energy are starting to compete with fossil fuels, and it is clear that there is a need to push the USA to invest in green energies. He insisted that an energy chapter should also serve a general purpose to address “old fashion” trade barriers such as export restrictions and differences in labelling requirements. Mr. Houben announced that the EU will propose an energy chapter during the next negotiation round in July and this chapter should be read together with horizontal obligations included in other chapters. He expressed his hopes that the US side will accept to discuss this topic, which will contribute for more transparency in the energy sector and contribute to the EU security strategy.
Mr. Richard Tibbels, Head of Unit for the US and Canada in the EEAS, also noted that an energy chapter in the TTIP will underpin the general objectives of the EU energy strategy and as energy has always been “the orphan” of trade negotiations and TTIP is an opportunity for establishing rules that will become a marker for the rest of the word.
Civil society representatives from business, trade unions and other organizations expressed their support for an energy chapter in TTIP which can improve EU competitiveness, promote trade in green technologies and offer greater access of EU companies to energy related public procurement. However, stakeholders insisted that this chapter should be accompanied by stepping up EU-US cooperation on sustainable development and should not lead to delays in the energy transition respect of our objectives regarding renewables and energy efficiency.