EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström accused of taking orders from corporate lobbyists

Malmström in heated exchange over TTIP with anti-poverty campaigner.

By William Louch

16 Oct 2015

Cecilia Malmström, the European Trade Commissioner, has issued a stinging rebuttal to criticisms of the Commission's handling of transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) negotiations. The accusations come from John Hilary, executive director of the anti-poverty charity War on Want.

In a strongly worded piece Hilary alleges that the Commission has been carrying on TTIP negotiations "behind closed doors" and without "the proper involvement European governments, let alone MPs or members of the public."

He continues, "Malmström receives her orders directly from the corporate lobbyists that swarm around Brussels," accusing the Commission of taking "its steer from industry lobbies such as BusinessEurope and the European Services Forum, much as a secretary takes down dictation."

In reply, Malmström acknowledges "Mr Hilary is entitled to his view," but says his article "totally misrepresents" the reality of the situation.

She argues, "as EU Commissioner, I take my mandate from the elected European Parliament," with the trade negotiating mandate - the document on which TTIP talks are based - is, "by law given to us by all EU member states’ governments."

In response to Hilary's accusations that EU governments are kept "in the dark" she adds, "First, we are following their mandate. Second, I talk almost daily to national ministers to update them. Third, we work with the governments as a team to prepare every single negotiation position."

She makes her case for the agreement arguing, "I want a deal that will lower trade barriers and facilitate transatlantic trade, so we can export more. Almost four million jobs in the UK are supported by exports outside the EU. TTIP could help us increase that figure."

However, her opinions are unlikely to appease critics of the deal. As Hilary notes, "a trade deal has never inspired such passionate and widespread opposition."

Opposition to the treaty has mainly focused on the so-called investor state dispute (ISDS) mechanism which Yannick Jadot, trade spokesperson for Parliament's Greens/EFA group, has called "the elephant in the room."

He summarises criticisms of the mechanism well, "It is an opaque procedure, which can and is used by multinational corporations to whittle away EU standards and regulations across a range of policies from the environment to food safety to social protection."

Malmström argues this is irrelevant as, "following the criticism of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system used for most earlier trade deals, I proposed to drop it and create a new and transparent investment court system."

Malmström insisted she wants a "TTIP debate based on facts."

The 11th round of TTIP negotiations are scheduled to be held in Miami, Florida later this month.

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