Days have passed since the Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström gave an ambitious push to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the supporters of the EU-US trade pact are now bound to see another possible sharp slowdown in the big ongoing negotiation match.
A leaked document obtained by campaign group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) reportedly revealed that the European Commission will be obliged to consult with US authorities before making and adopting any new legislative proposal. As reported by The Independent last week, the secret document allegedly shows that the Commission will have enough power to decide in which areas there should be cooperation between Brussels and the States, pushing the EU member states and the European Parliament aside.
“The leak absolutely confirms our fears about TTIP. It’s all about giving big business more power over a very wide range of laws and regulations”, said Nick Dearden, director of the Global Justice Now campaign group, told The Independent last week. “In fact, business lobbies are on record as saying they want to co-write laws with governments, and this gets them a step closer”, he declared.
His clear-cut words were echoed by Kenneth Haar, researcher at CEO, who underlined that the leaked document would shows how TTIP’s regulatory cooperation “will facilitate big business influence and US influence on lawmaking” before any proposal is even presented to local parliaments. “EU and US determination to put big business at the heart of decision-making is a direct threat to democratic principles”, he argued.
The European Commission strongly denied any accusation. A spokesman for the European Commission said: “These accusations are unfounded and are not reflected in the EU proposal for simplifying rules for EU exporters”. “Regulators – not trade negotiators – will continue to lead regulatory cooperation initiatives – both in the EU and the US”, the EU spokesperson declared.
A long “TTIP-leak” history
The leaked document represents only the last case of a quite controversial “TTIP-leak” story. One year ago, during the 9th round of negotiations, the BBC reported the news of a leaked draft of a sort of “exclusion list” by the EU, which was described as “the initial offer of the European Union in the context of TTIP negotiations”. The 103-page long document, which was put forward by EU negotiators before the upcoming round of talks with the US, generated a huge debate, as it mainly concerned some of the hottest topics of the whole deal, such as health and privatisation risks.
Last October, the Guardian published another leaked draft text submitted by the EU during the Miami negotiation round, which was allegedly showing how the EU was promising only with “vaguely phrased and non-binding commitments” to safeguard the environment during the negotiation process. The Guardian reported that ways of enforcing goals on biodiversity, chemicals and illegal wildlife trade were totally absent from the document.
The leaked document came at a very delicate moment for TTIP, especially since it concerns one of the most delicate and debated areas, the “regulatory cooperation”. The biggest concern by European TTIP opponents is indeed that the mammoth EU-US trade deal, while harmonising trans-Atlantic rules in a wide range of areas – from food and chemicals safety, to environmental protection – will ultimately lower European standards. Useless to say how this latest TTIP-leaked document will raise the bar of fear.
Too secretive process
Moreover, this umpteenth TTIP “scandal”, would somehow represent an evidence that the sort of secrecy around the talks that No-TTIP campaigners have very often claimed, could indeed be a current risk. It was only in December 2015 when, after months of campaigning, European lawmakers won a battle to get access to previously restricted documents containing the draft compromises between the EU and the US, the so called “consolidated texts”. Until then, indeed only a very limited number of Members of the European Parliament had been able to access those documents, and that was one of the main reasons why a broad coalition of labour unions, NGOs and environmental groups had slammed the deal over a too secretive negotiation process.
The European Commission have always defended the transparency of the works, and the EC’s spokesperson have mentioned that the EU is determined to apply the good conduct this time too. “The text on regulatory cooperation will be published soon for everyone to see that this so-called analysis is completely false, presents a biased view of the European Commission’s work and ignores the reality of EU texts”, the spokesperson told the press.
Trade Chief’s words before the case
Last week, while on a visit to her home town of Gothenburg, just a couple of days before the latest leaked TTIP document came out, Commissioner Malmström said that the EU is determined to use trade using trade as “a lever to increase respect for human rights, labour law and environmental protection worldwide”. During her speech at Gothenburg University, she mentioned the recent deals with Canada and Vietnam as quality agreements that can work as an example for the upcoming TTIP. “But these agreements can and will only take effect if they have the support of the people”, she said.
The document mentioned by CEO was still to come, but surely Commissioner Malmström’s words were already giving pause for thoughts. “That’s why the Commission is engaging so closely with the public debate – to ensure that genuine concerns can be addressed […] and to build the coalitions we need to deliver results”, she added.
“But we can’t do that alone: other actors, national governments, civil society organisations and business all have vital roles to play too”, Commissioner Malmström concluded.