EU Makes Significant Transparency Push

Yesterday’s decision by the European Commission to release dozens of new documents outlining their negotiating positions represents a bold step forward for the transparency that campaigners both for and against TTIP have been clamoring for. It also marks an admission on behalf of the Commission that without greater public awareness and input, the deal will struggle to overcome the opposition that is growing against the agreement in some quarters.

Moreover, the publication of these documents seems to underline the point that the two sides are not actually as far apart on many key issues as people often imagine. While there are still several points of contention which will require difficult negotiation, the fact sheets across different chapters — like SMEs, Energy, and rules on Sustainable Development — underline that the US and EU have made real quantifiable progress since the talks began.

Now of course, the hard part begins, working on the areas where the disagreements are more frequent and the sides are further apart. Still, starting a more open public dialogue is a critically important step to hopefully winning the public’s approval to move forward with an ambitious agreement.

See Reuters’ take on the release of the documents here, and one from Germany’s Zeit here (in German).

 Speeches & Official Announcements

European Commission publishes TTIP legal texts as part of transparency initiative

“I’m delighted that we can start the new year by clearly demonstrating through our actions the commitment we made to greater transparency just over a month ago.” – Commissioner Cecilia Malmström

Yesterday, the European Commission published eight legal texts and position papers on a number of topics being negotiated in TTIP, bringing the total number of position papers it has made public up to 15. This is the first time the EU has made trade documents publicly available while bilateral trade talks are ongoing. The eight EU textual proposals cover topics such as competition, food safety and animal and plant health, customs issues, technical barriers to trade, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and government-to-government dispute settlement. Commissioner Malmström commented that, “It is important that everyone can see and understand what we’re proposing in TTIP and – just as importantly – what we’re not.” The Commission also stated that they intend to publish further texts and proposals in the course of the negotiations. (European Commission)

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly on TTIP

“The Commission has made real efforts to make the TTIP negotiations more transparent. […] However, US resistance to publishing certain TTIP documents is not in itself sufficient to keep them from the European public. The Commission has to ensure at all times that exceptions to the EU citizens’ fundamental right to get access to documents are well-founded and fully justified.” – Emily O’Reilly

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly welcomed the real progress made by the European Commission and called for “further steps to increase TTIP transparency” in her press release on January 7, calling for more public access to consolidated EU-US negotiating texts. (EurActiv)

Trade Committee Chair Bernd Lange welcomes publication of TTIP texts

“The European Parliament will continue to encourage the Commission to provide the highest possible level of transparency as we go. […] This is an important first step towards a public debate based on facts, rather than on assumptions and suspicions.” – Bernd Lange, MEP

European Parliament Trade Committee chair Bernd Lange welcomed the publication of TTIP texts, noting that this was a first step in the right direction, and he underlined the Parliament’s request for more transparency applied to all other trade negotiations the EU is currently conducting. (European Parliament)


Angela Merkel to back EU reform but rule out treaty change

German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined British Prime Minister David Cameron in calling for EU reforms during a visit to London yesterday. Ms. Merkel strongly endorsed efforts to conclude a transatlantic trade deal with the US, calling for a more open, fiscally-responsible and less bureaucratic Europe. (Financial Times)

EU pushes back against TTIP trade agreement secrecy claims

In an attempt to counter a growing swell of opposition from non-governmental organizations, the EU published eight of its negotiating proposals in key sectors, ranging from food safety to customs issues. This public relations move paves the way for an even greater battle in the spring, when the EU will have to decide how to handle clauses mapping out the rights of foreign investors to sue governments, while facing particularly stern German resistance. (Financial Times)

The Eurozone slides into deflation for first time since October 2009

The Eurozone fell into deflation for the first time in more than five years, exacerbating fears about the health of the global economy and low inflation expectations. Eurostat figures confirmed that consumer prices fell 0.2 percent in the year to December, dragged down by falling oil prices. Moreover, in the wake of the announcement, the euro weakened for a record ninth successive day. (The Economist)

Recent Analysis

A Trade Opportunity for Obama and the New Congress

Expanding international trade is a key possible area of potential cooperation between President Obama and the Republican Congress. The Peterson Institute for International Economics estimated that the new trade deals in the works could offer an average American family of four an added $3,000 in yearly purchasing power. TTIP could help the US and EU overcome duplicative regulatory barriers that often impede growth, while promoting greater global competition with higher standards. (The Wall Street Journal)

Put aside ideology when it comes to TTIP

Bruno Macaes, Portuguese State Secretary for European Affairs, writes that TTIP will unlock the hidden potential of both the European and American economies in order to improve opportunities for everyone, starting with workers and small businesses. In an analytical study conducted with Joseph Francois at CEPR, Macaes found that TTIP could provide a significant boost in getting his home country of Portugal out of its current economic stagnation, to give just one important example. (EUObserver)

Sausage Row Reveals German disquiet over trade talks

German food producers, politicians, and campaigners against the transatlantic trade deal claim that TTIP would sacrifice the protection of regional brands to globalization. Christian Schmidt, Germany’s agricultural minister, offered the German government’s support for protected geographical indications. This sentiment was reinforced by EU spokesman Daniel Rosario, who insisted that TTIP would not undermine European food brands or weaken intellectual property safeguards. Moreover, a commitment to geographical indications is clearly marked in the recently released European negotiating texts. (Financial Times)

Upcoming Events

Saving the Euro: A Discussion with Carlo Bastasin – January 8 in Washington; hosted by the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies – More Information

TTIP: Impacts on Agriculture and Food in the US, the EU, and Beyond – January 9 in Washington; hosted by the Ecologic Institute – More Information

Economic Diplomacy: How Economic Ties Can Strengthen National Security – January 15 in Washington; hosted by the American Security Project – More Information

EU Rendez-Vous: TTIP and the Media: Perspectives from Both Sides of the Atlantic – January 15 in Washington; hosted by the EU Delegation to the US – More Information

The Eurozone: Now What? A Conversation with Lucrezia Reichlin – January 16 in Washington; hosted by The Brookings Institution – More Information

The Second Annual EU-US Trade Conference: TTIP Where Now for the EU-US Trade Deal? – February 5 in Brussels; hosted by Forum Europe – More Information

February 2-6, 2015 – Eighth Round of TTIP Negotiations in Brussels – More information to  follow