Negotiations of the EU-U.S. trade deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, may have hit a snag after a leaked document appears to give the U.S. and large corporations disproportionate weight in future trade decisions.
The leak was obtained by Great Britain’s The Independent working with campaign organization Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).
Giving the U.S. first access
The document indicates that the unelected European Commission has agreed to consult with the U.S. government prior to adopting new trade legislation, according to a new EU proposal on horizontal regulatory cooperation published March 21.
Under this process, the CEO argues that the U.S. firms and major corporations could have outsize influence on future EU trade policy. The leaked document pertains to the chapter on regulatory cooperation with the United States.
According to CEO:
The proposal provides big business groups with the tools to influence legislation that they have been demanding, including a mechanism by which transatlantic business coalitions can include their own preferences in the regulatory cooperation working program.
The new structure would also expand the role of the Commission, which is an unaccountable EU body, CEO said.
Under these suggested structures, the U.S. government could potentially question and demand changes to regulation before member states of the European Union have the opportunity to debate them.
EU Commission claims false analysis, French not amused
The organization argues that EU citizens and their governments will be sidelined in the trade process.
A spokesperson for the EU Commission flatly denied that the proposed structure for the deal would give more weight to concerns from the U.S. and big business more than those from member states.
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.
“Regulators – not trade negotiators – will continue to lead regulatory cooperation initiatives.”
However, a top French official is taking a quite different view of the power struggle between the two sides. French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl said last week that the U.S. will have to concede more if the trade deal is to go through.
The deal is contingent on the U.S. relaxing some of its demands, he argued.
“If there are no concessions on access to public markets in the United States, on the protection of geographical indications and on the investment court system, then the question is why we’re even still negotiating,” Fekl said.
Talks to continue as the players change
The TTIP is aiming to coordinate regulation on a number of products in the EU and the U.S., including financial services and banking, environmental protection, and food and product safety.
Other sensitive topics include public procurement. Officials on both sides of the negotiating table met in early March to discuss the topic, and are expected to meet for two additional rounds of talks on the issue before the start of summer.
The two sides made some progress on the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in early March. However, it remains unlikely that the TTIP agreement will be completed before the U.S. presidential election is decided this November.
The agreement may not, in the end, apply to the United Kingdom; the UK is scheduled to hold a referendum on its EU membership on June 23.
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