Last week, more than 150 NGOs from the US and EU sent a letter to Commissioner De Gucht and US Ambassador Michael Froman explaining their deep concerns about proposals for "regulatory cooperation". A similar letter was sent on 19 May 2014 by a group of Brussels based NGOs have petitoning Commissioner De Gucht for full transparency on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.
The letter raises EU’s civil society deep concerns about the lack of transparency around the ongoing trade talks on TTIP and calls on Commissioner De Gucht to open up 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 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 letter also gives several examples on how the negotiation process could be improved. For instance the United Nations Framework for Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and even the World Trade Organisation (WTO) provide a greater degree of openness to civil society, including disclosure of negotiating documents, than the negotiations on TTIP do.