The negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) continue to be of major concern to many citizens. MEPs have already warned that they would not approve the agreement at any cost and are currently working on recommendations to the European Commission on the negotiations for the EU-US trade deal.
The points of criticism expressed in the citizens’ letters range from the negotiation procedure to the feared consequences of the agreements. Most citizens referred to the Investor to State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) as a serious challenge to democracy since investors and companies might sue EU governments. Citizens also expressed their disappointment when the European Commission refused the request to register a European Citizens’ Initiative to stop TTIP.
The European Parliament takes all these concerns very seriously. That is why MEPs will scrutinise and debate any text that emerges from the negotiation process before approving or not the EU-US trade deal.
TTIP could lead to the world’s largest bilateral free-trade area. Increased market access and trading opportunities, and the removal of unnecessary regulations and red tape, could help boost economic growth and create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
As this is the most ambitious and wide-ranging trade deal the EU has ever negotiated it has a potential impact on many areas of EU public life. The European Parliament is thus following the talks very closely to ensure the agreement’s benefits do not come at an unacceptable cost.
Issues that still need to be worked out include public health, European small and medium-sized enterprises’ access to the public procurement market in the US, financial or maritime services and the so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement clause, a mechanism to help solve disputes between investors and countries.
From the very beginning of the negotiation process, Parliament underscored European values and standards that it wishes to see upheld in the course of the talks as outlined in its resolution of 23 May 2013, adopted before the trade negotiations started. Parliament urged, for example, that the Union’s high standards on consumer protection, social rights and the protection of health, the environment and personal data should be retained and reinforced in the agreement.
As with all free trade agreements, the European Commission is negotiating the agreement on the basis of negotiating directives issued by the EU governments, which were finally declassified.
At the European Parliament’s insistence, the European Commission committed to enhanced transparency and agreed to publish the EU position documents. It also decided to grant all MEPs access to the restricted negotiating documents with the use of a special ‘reading room’. They are not allowed to share these documents publicly but they can get a real insight into the progress of the talks.
As the European Parliament is not participating in the negotiations, it cannot stop them. Only after the conclusion of negotiations can the Council and the European Parliament give – or withhold – their consent.
The ‘mid-term review’
In the current review of the talks, led by Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, 14 other parliamentary committees are working in parallel to produce opinions on the impact of TTIP in their respective subject areas. MEPs are due to debate and vote on the EP’s position before this summer.
Working documents and information about the current state of play in the negotiations are available on the Commission’s TTIP webpage.
Specific parts of TTIP have been analysed by the experts of the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) and these reports are available on the EPRS webpage.