European commission lifts lid on TTIP negotiations

Written by Jon Benton on 8 January 2015 in News
News

Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström has responded to critics of the EU-US free trade deal by honouring her commitment to transparency and openness with the release of Europe's negotiation proposals.

TTIP, US-EU relations

The European commission has released further texts from the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) discussions as part of its effort to honour its public commitment to transparency and openness.

In a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday, Malmström explained why the commission was publishing texts from the discussions, highlighting the need to disprove myths and misconceptions surrounding the TTIP debate.

"I find it quite amazing that so many people all around Europe are discussing a trade agreement", said Malmström,as she welcomed the great deal of public interest TTIP has received, before adding, "but we can also see that there are lots of myths and misconceptions floating around what we want to achieve and what is not in the agreement".

"I find it quite amazing that so many people all around Europe are discussing a trade agreement… but we can also see that there are lots of myths and misconceptions floating around what we want to achieve and what is not in the agreement"

The lack of clarity surrounding the trade negotiations has been a cause of great concern for critics who have questioned why a trade deal with global implications has been carried out so privately.

The documents being published contain, "the EU's first set of our proposals for legal texts in the negotiations, and they set out precisely what the commission would like to see in particular parts of the agreement", said Malmström.

The text of the proposals released by the commission set out what the EU wants to achieve in eight fields, for example food safety (including animal and plant health) and hygiene, customs issues, technical barriers to trade, and small and medium sized enterprises.

The commission has also published 'position papers' that explain the EU's approach on the areas being negotiated, revealing the EU's motivations behind individual proposals that have been put forward. The subjects being negotiated that have been published include engineering, vehicles and sustainable development. Similar papers have been published in the past, with the latest batch bringing the total to 15 so far.

Furthermore, said Malmström, the commission has also released so called 'explanatory texts' written "in a non-technical language alongside the legal texts and on all other areas of the negotiations too".

Also accompanying these documents will be a "'readers guide' explaining what each legal text means, as well as a series of fact sheets setting out in plain language what is at stake in each chapter and what are the aims in each area", said the trade commissioner.

Malmström presented several examples of what was being released, including a position paper concerning regulatory cooperation on cars, "that sets out concrete proposals for how our prospective rules can be properly used and accepted on both sides".

"As you know, [standardisation] is one of the main benefits of this agreement, in this particular case it regards seatbelts", said Malmström.

"99 per cent [of] European and US companies, 20 million companies in the EU and 28 million in the US are small and medium sized companies and they provide for us two thirds of all private sector jobs so [TTIP] is very important for them".

Cecilia Malmström seemed determined to ensure that future negotiations would be as transparent and open as possible, but also that TTIP would definitely go ahead in one form or another.

The trade commissioner also discussed the impact of TTIP on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and highlighted the need to "establish specific mechanisms to facilitate SME participation in transatlantic trade as these businesses are disproportionately affected by trade barriers".

Moreover, Malmström expressed awareness of what was at stake for SMEs, stressing that, "99 per cent [of] European and US companies, 20 million companies in the EU and 28 million in the US are small and medium sized companies and they provide for us two thirds of all private sector jobs so [TTIP] is very important for them".

In her closing remarks, she expressed her hope that "by the end of the year a bare-bones agreement will be in place". However, to allay fears that this would be a rushed agreement, she explained that the, "substance rather than the pace of the agreement is important, so that we can be confident with the agreement that we present to the public".

Finally, according to the trade commissioner, more texts will be published following the next round of discussions in February and that this approach would be the standard practice for the future.

To find out more about TTIP and view the commission's recently published documents click here.

 

About the author

Jon Benton is a journalist and editorial assistant at the Parliament Magazine

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