De Gucht’s TTIP Legacy

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Karel De Gucht at the EMI TTIP Summit .Brussels, October 2014.

Karel De Gucht at the EMI TTIP Summit (Brussels, October 2014).

At the end of the mandate of the Barroso II Commission, civil society organisations Europe-wide are asking what steps the Commissioner-designate for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, is going to take in order to manage the TTIP legacy of the outgoing Commissioner, De Gucht. How will she meet stakeholders’ expectations, lower destractors’ concerns, reconcile the stance with the European Parliament, and lead the negotiations to a satisfactory closure?, asks Jo Leinen MEP.

Jo Leinen MEP is the President of the European Movement International (EMI).

At the EMI TTIP Summit event, concluding the EMI’s pan-European cycle of civil society debates on TTIP, which took place in Brussels last Thursday 2 October 2014, Commissioner De Gucht presented the current state of TTIP after the 7th round of negotiations. De Gucht emphasised that the exploratory phase of TTIP is now behind us and it is high time to prioritise results and concentrate fully on the three pillars of the agreement: market access, regulatory agenda, and rules and services, which need to be considered together with environmental, social and broader economic concerns. The Commissioner stated that a strong TTIP agreement will send a signal showing that the EU and the US are highly stable markets worth investing in. The statement was backed by John F. Sammis, Deputy Chief of the US Mission to the EU who posed the question whether we want to be shaped by globalisation or, instead, try to shape it. He assured the European audience that the US is deeply committed to negotiating TTIP, which will promote the well-being of and increase opportunities for all US and EU citizens.

The ensuing panel debate involved Marietje Schaake MEP; Monique Goyens, Director General of BEUC; Erik Brattberg from the Atlantic Council and Hendrik Bourgeois, AmCham EU, and saw panelists discussing the main TTIP-challenges: the issues of transparency, and investment protection provisions.

The European Movement believes that the positive steps already taken in the area of transparency and citizens’ involvement should be pursued further, allowing for the engagement of civil dialogue and open consultations at every stage of the negotiation talks. With regards to the upcoming negotiation rounds, a well-designed transparency strategy should be designed and implemented by the negotiation teams. Furthermore, the practice of the “reading room”, now exercised for the TTIP Advisory Group, needs modernisation to match the actual demands of the 21st century. In addition, if the European Parliament is to fulfill its watchdog role, it should be granted wider access to all the respective documents.

Successfully concluded, TTIP would constitute a precedent, and set worldwide standards for future trade and investment agreements. But it is also necessary to recognise and address the concerns expressed by various stakeholders and to make sure that their stances are properly represented at the negotiation table. An all-inclusive negotiation process would definitely deliver a more effective deal that safeguards European citizens’ interests, and that would gain the support, rather than opposition of, civil society. What is also often omitted in the discussion is the impact of TTIP on the EU partners: EEA/EFTA, as well as the (potential) EU candidate countries. It can be expected that TTIP will have a profound impact on their economies. Yet, as these countries are absent from the negotiation table, the European Commission’s trade team needs to pay particular attention to the effects a TTIP agreement would have on these countries, and include their opinions in the EU position.

Achieving a satisfactory compromise on both sides of the Atlantic is both possible and desirable. As the European Union has already successfully established an internal market amongst its 28 member states, bridging the US and EU together by adapting common rules and standards, while maintaining the highest levels of regulatory protection, is a challenging, yet not impossible task. Not at any cost though. Only if the concerns of all stakeholders are thoroughly and openly addressed, does TTIP have a chance to succeed.

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