Brief an Kommissar de Gucht (englisch) von NGOs

Corporate Europe Observatory (http://corporateeurope.org)

Civil society call for full transparency in EU-US trade negotiations
March 14th 2014

Together with 26 networks and organisations, Corporate Europe Observatory has today launched a joint civil society call for transparency in the TTIP negotiations. The call is directed to European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht and is asking for the full disclosure of all negotiation texts as well as pro-active lobby transparency. It is open for more civil society organisations who want to support it.

This is the text of the statement:

The undersigned organisations are writing to express deep concerns about the lack of transparency around the ongoing trade talks on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We are calling on you to open the negotiation process to the public, by releasing the negotiating mandate, documents submitted by the EU, and negotiating texts.

The European Commission has repeatedly stated that trade and investment between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) are already highly integrated, and that the main focus of TTIP will be to achieve regulatory convergence by removing so-called non-tariff barriers to trade. This means that the outcome has much less to do with traditional trade issues such as tariffs, than with the regulations and standards that apply in the EU and the US and that affect every single aspect of citizens’ daily lives – from the quality of the food we eat to the safety of chemicals we use, the energy we consume, or the impact of financial services on each of us.

Civil society groups in the EU and in the US have voiced concerns that this might lower standards and remove safeguards across the board. They have requested greater transparency about the negotiations to address these concerns. The setting up of a stakeholder advisory group for the negotiations by the EU – although an improvement compared to previous negotiations – is far from sufficient to make the process fully transparent. Members of the group will have limited access to the negotiating texts under strict confidentiality rules, and these will remain out of reach for the rest of interested civil society groups and citizens.

The European Commission has argued that secrecy in this process is inevitable because this is a matter of international relations. If these negotiations are intended to affect domestic regulations, standards and safeguards on each side, then citizens have the right to know what is being put on the table, and how this is being negotiated. The standard legislative process in the EU allows for public scrutiny of each step of policy-making as well as full involvement of the European Parliament. We would urge that those negotiations should comply with the same level of openness. The process should also allow for public accountability of the European Commission for the negotiating positions that it takes. Given that many of the issues under negotiation relate to the environment, this would also reflect the EU’s obligations under Article 3(7) of the Aarhus Convention to promote access to information, public participation and access to justice in international environmental decision-making processes.