Professor Elaine Fahey, Institute for the Study of European Law, City Law School, City, University of London
The EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC)
A Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council (TTC) has been set up quickly by the European Union (EU) with the US at the outset of the US Biden administration. It is not a trade negotiation and does not adhere to any specific Article 218 TFEU procedure, although it has many signature ‘EU’ characteristics. The TTC has high-minded goals to ‘solve’ global challenges on trade and technology with its most significant third country cooperating partner. Yet it is notably not the only recent Council proposed by the EU- there is also a new EU-India Trade and Technology Council. These new Councils represent a new modus operandi for the EU to engage with ‘complex’ partners, comprising executive to executive engagement, meeting agency counterparts regularly in close groups in an era of EU trade policy deepening its stakeholder and civil society ambit overall. The TTC has a vast range of policy-making activities, traversing many areas of EU law. Their precise selection and future is difficult to understand in EU regional trade and data policy, seemingly pivoting, like US trade law, to executive-led soft law.
Three academics from The City Law School – Elaine Fahey, Panos Koutrakos and Jed Odermatt – have contributed to a new edited volume The EU and its Member States’ Joint Participation in International Agreements (Hart 2022). The volume is based on contributions presented at a workshop held at the University of Geneva in November 2020.
EU law has developed a unique and complex system under which the Union and its Member States can both act under international law, separately, jointly or in parallel. International law was not set up to deal with such complex and hybrid arrangements, which raise questions under both international and EU law. Thie book assesses how EU law has been adapted to cope with the constraints of international law in situations in which the EU and its Member States act jointly in relations with other States and international organisations. Each chapter was jointly written by a team of two authors. The various contributions offer new insights into the tension that continues to exist between EU and international law obligations in relation to the (joint) participation of the EU and its Member States in international agreements.
The EU-US trade partnership is the largest bilateral trade and investment relationship between the largest economies in the world (the EU economy accounts for 25.1% of global GDP and the US one represents 21.6%). Although bilateral, the EU-US trade partnership heavily impacts the global economy given that the EU or the US (or both) are the most important business partners for most countries worldwide. Furthermore, although the role of China as the EU’s import source for goods has greatly expanded in the last years, the US remains the EU’s largest trade and investment partner.
After the tensions characterizing the “Trump era” (e.g., US tariffs imposed on EU steel and aluminium recently suspended for a two-year period), the EU-US partnership on trade seems to be experiencing its “Renaissance”. The new Biden administration may provide a chance for a renovated transatlantic partnership, centred on cooperation over global challenges such as climate change and the concerns originating from the digitalisation of the economy. With regard to the latter issue, the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (EU-US TTC), established in June 2021 following an EU-US Summit, proves the improvement in the EU-US relation. In particular, one of the Council’s main goals is to strengthen the EU-US global cooperation on technology, digital issues and supply chains. The summit served to reiterate the EU-US commitment over the reform of the WTO’s negotiating function and dispute settlement system. Nonetheless, as will be extensively illustrated in the following, tensions do not seem to have been dispelled completely (e.g., the suspension of aluminium and steel tariffs is only temporary).