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USTR rejecting EU bids for more transparency in TTIP

Infojustice | February 28, 2014

USTR rejecting EU bids for more transparency in TTIP

Sean Flynn

USTR demands for hyper-secrecy in the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) continue to be a major block to continuing negotiations. The current issue under discussion is access to US proposals by EU member states — which are of course themselves sovereign countries. The member states are demanding access to the text of proposals that would constrain their domestic law making, as they have had in all other EU trade agreements (e.g. the recent EU-Canada FTA). But Inside US Trade (2/28/2014) reports that USTR Froman has offered only that “he might be able to allow the European Commission to share the U.S. negotiating documents it receives if they were accessible only in a secure reading room.”

The tool of giving access only through a secured reading room is similar to access given to US Members of Congress. Members, but not their staffs, can see Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) text personally in a secured reading room in the Capitol after a request and what some have described as a notably long period before USTR responds with requested chapters. Once there, the Member cannot have any personal staff present and cannot take notes, make copies or otherwise remove relevant text for consultation with staff and experts outside of the secure room. Congressional staff have reported that very few Members have used this limited opportunity to review proposals.

But at least Members of Congress all work in the same building. Apparently Froman’s proposal is that they keep the text in Brussels and all member state officials that want to see it fly there. There is no word yet whether Froman will also demand that only the Chief Executive of each country be allowed in the secured room, without their specialist staff, as he demands of Congress.

There is no word yet on whether EU Members of Parliament will obtain access to consolidated TTIP text after each negotiation round, as was provided in at the end of the negotiation of the of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Increased access to ACTA text for EU (but not US) legislative staff followed a March 2010 Resolution of the EU Parliament lambasting the Commission for its intense secrecy, including accusations of violations of the Lisbon Treaty governing EU affairs. Relevant passages of the 2010 resolution read:

The European Parliament . . .

3. Calls on the Commission and the Council to grant public and parliamentary access to ACTA negotiation texts and summaries, in accordance with the Treaty and with Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents;

4. Calls on the Commission and the Council to engage proactively with ACTA negotiation partners to rule out any further negotiations which are confidential as a matter of course and to inform Parliament fully and in a timely manner about its initiatives in this regard; expects the Commission to make proposals prior to the next negotiation round in New Zealand in April 2010, to demand that the issue of transparency is put on the agenda of that meeting and to refer the outcome of the negotiation round to Parliament immediately following its conclusion;

5. Stresses that, unless Parliament is immediately and fully informed at all stages of the negotiations, it reserves its right to take suitable action, including bringing a case before the Court of Justice in order to safeguard its prerogatives;

6. Deplores the calculated choice of the parties not to negotiate through well-established international bodies, such as WIPO and WTO, which have established frameworks for public information and consultation

The 2010 EU resolution may provide a blueprint for some of those in Congress reflecting on what transparency provisions should govern future trade negotiations in any Trade Promotion Authority bill, particularly for the regulatory discipline chapters of trade agreement that restrain a wide variety of domestic policy choices (as Paul Krugman noted in the New York Times today).

 source: Infojustice