“TTIP talks transparency should become the rule and not just the exception”

13 Oct 2014, keywords :

EU national governments, in the form of the Council of the EU, published the negotiating mandate for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) last week (Thursday 9 October).

“TTIP talks transparency should become the rule and not just the exception”

The publication of the negotiating mandate follows several months of pressure from trade unions and civil society calling for more transparency on TTIP. The document details the nature and scope of the TTIP, a preamble and general principles, objectives, provisions about market access, regulatory issues and non-tariff barriers and rules, the institutional framework, and final provisions.

Pressure to publish the secret mandate came not only from trade unions and NGO’s, but also from the outgoing Trade Commissioner, a number MEPs and the European Ombudsman. As long as the mandate was kept secret, many officials felt the lack of transparency might put the agreement at risk.

Last month (September), European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly opened investigations over complaints about maladministration and the lack of transparency over the trade talks. The Commission has repeatedly hailed TTIP as the most transparent trade talks ever held.

The mandate itself includes some encouraging commitments such as the preservation of the high quality of the EU’s public utilities in accordance with the Treaties and in particular Protocol no26 on Services of General Interest.

On the issues of labour standards, the mandate states that the TTIP will include mechanisms to support the promotion of decent work through effective domestic implementation of International Labour Organisation (ILO) core labour standards.

While steps towards transparency are being taken, negotiations are also clearly defined as not being limited to what is detailed in the mandate.

On the “Others Rules Area”, the mandate states “the Agreement may include provisions regarding other areas related to the trade and economic relationship where, in the course of negotiations, mutual interest was expressed in doing so.” In other words, what the US and the EU might want to include above and beyond the mandate is open for discussion.

Issues remains unclear on TTIP such as the so-called investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, overs fears that the EU risks discriminating domestic business by putting foreign investor and foreign business above the law.

Commenting on the recent publication of the negotiating mandate, CESI Secretary General Klaus Heeger said “This type of transparency should become the norm for trade talks and not only after intense pressure from trade unions and civil society. I hope this decision from EU Member States becomes the rule and not just the exception.”

“Reservations still stand on many issues within the negotiating mandate itself but the best way forward is without doubt an open and transparent way forward.”

“CESI needs to see how the elimination of non-tariff barriers and free access to markets will be compatible with respect to the the triple protection in social, environmental and labour standards. In particular this is important with what the mandate calls ‘maximum ambition’ in the sphere of public procurement.”

“Finally, properly addressing the ISDS mechanism is crucial. There is still the risk in creating a judicial system which domestic investors are unable to use. This means an inherent discrimination against potential domestic investment making the TTIP with an ISDS provision difficult for CESI to support.”

The 7th round of TTIP talks took place this month in Washington.