On 31 July, the European Ombudsman opened investigations into the European Commission and the Council concerning transparency and public participation in relation to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.
Negotiations between the US and the EU began in July 2013, but the 17-page document containing the EU negotiating directives has not been disclosed to citizens, despite the fact that, in the view of the Ombudsman, “it is not immediately apparent how its disclosure would undermine the protection of any of the public or private interests provided for in Article 4 of Regulation 1049/2001.” (The document is in fact freely but unofficially available on the internet). The Ombudsman has given the Council and the Commission until 30 September and 31 October, respectively, to reply.
So what is TTIP? It is a proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the United States. Those in favour say that it will stimulate economic growth, while those against believe that it will increase corporate power and interfere with the freedom of governments to act in the interests of the public good. Areas of major concern to opponents are democracy, world poverty, the environment, public services, food safety and financial regulation. A particular area of tension is the fear that TTIP will grant foreign investors the right to use arbitration tribunals to sue governments for loss of profits due to public policy decisions (for example, decisions to do with health services or education).
Meanwhile DG Trade has published State of Play of TTIP negotiations after the 6th round. Dated 29 July 2014, it is not informative about the substance of the negotiations and although there appears to be a substantial body of material available on the DG Trade web pages, it is not organised in an easily accessible way. This does the EU no favours, as transparency is an essential element of trust. Among other things, the EU ombudsman has suggested that the Commission should establish ‘a public register of TTIP documents held by it, in line with Article 11 of Regulation 1049/2001.’ She points out that ‘Such a register could contain a link to the actual document, where possible, thereby fully exploiting the possibility of proactively making documents available.’ Meanwhile, researchers must largely make do with the DG Trade website for the official EU view. There is UK government information here and a cost/benefit analyis by LSE Enterprise here.
As to unofficial commentary, there has been plenty to read, for example in EurActiv, The Guardian, World Development Movement, euobserver and Atlantic Community. Some of this commentary is pro-TTIP, such as Ken Clarke’s piece in the Guardian This EU-US trade deal is no ‘assault on democracy’ which argues that TTIP ‘is an astonishingly good deal for the UK economy’. For a powerful hostile analysis, see John Hilary’s Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: a charter for deregulation and attack on jobs.
Posted by the EDC Librarian