Head of EU TTIP negotiations “I do not take my mandate from the European people.”

22nd March 2016 / Editors Picks, EU

Cecilia Malmstrom, the lead EU Trade Commissioner of the TTIP negotiations between Europe and the US has a personal statement on the EU Commission website that defines her role as primarily “Pursuing an ambitious trade agenda to the benefit of European citizens, SMEs and the broader economy” and “Negotiating bilateral trade agreement with key countries, including reaching a balanced and reasonable Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the U.S. that respects Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards, and our cultural diversity.”

To say that Malmstrom occupies an important, strategic role in global trade today is an understatement as this deal, if signed, will be the biggest in human history and will account for $38billion (40 percent) of the $76billion of annual global GDP.

Basically, she is in charge of trade and investment policy for each of the 28 EU member states, and it is her officials that are currently attempting to finalise the TTIP deal with the USA – all behind closed doors.

Malmstrom has faced huge public opposition over TTIP. Millions have signed petitions, 500,000 from Britain alone. Huge protests groups have rallied in every city in Europe, some have turned ugly with protestors facing riot police in Brussels and elsewhere. In response the EU Commission conducted the largest ever survey since its 1951 birth and published the results in January 2015 where 97% of 150,000 respondents from 28 nations voiced their opposition to the deal. At the same time, the Commission also received individual replies from more than 450 organisations who represented a wider spectrum of EU civil society, including trade unions, NGOs, business organisations, consumer groups, charities, legal firms and academics, all of whom expressed either deep concern or outright opposition.

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All of these protests, have been completely ignored and no doubt will continue to be so. It is difficult to see how Malmstrom is fulfilling her role when it comes to “benefitting European citizens, SMEs and the broader economy that respects Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards, and its cultural diversity” in the face of such citizen outrage.

Questioned by a reporter from The Independent a few months back on why she continued her persistent promotion of the deal against such massive public opposition, her response was: “I do not take my mandate from the European people.” EU commissioners are supposed to follow the elected governments of Europe and this deal is nothing more than a corporate coups d’état.

So far, most of the opposition to TTIP has concentrated on the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause which will allow US corporations to sue EU governments for any decision that could harm their profits. The spearhead of protest was right here and the EU Commission’s response was simply to rebrand the untenable ISDS with “Investment Court System.”

More than 40 civil society organisations have denounced the Commission proposal on ‘regulatory cooperation’ as an instrument to undermine democratic principles and the right to regulate in the public interest. Kenneth Haar from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) said:

“The proposal enables the US to exert undue influence at a very early stage of decision-making, before any proposal has even been considered by elected bodies in the EU. This is unacceptable, because it undermines democratic principles.” 

CEO continues to state that not only is the US allowed to influence EU legislation, business is also continuously provided with an extra opportunity to co-write regulation.

“The proposal provides big business groups with the tools they have been demanding to influence legislation. Institutionalising lobbying at the earliest stage of legislation strengthens business’ privileged access to trade and its policy-making,”

In a desperate attempt to get Malmstrom to listen, a statement from yet more organisations, 45 to be precise, again from all over Europe representing millions of citizens on the new EU proposal on ‘Regulatory Cooperation’ has been authored, signed and sent.

Dear Commissioner Malmström,

The undersigned organisations are writing to express our deep concern with the new EU proposal on horizontal regulatory cooperation (dated 21. March 2016) in the EU-US TTIP negotiations . We consider it a threat to democratic, decision-making and regulation in the public interest.

The new EU position paper on “regulatory cooperation and good regulatory practices” offers an insight into how negotiators hope to avoid future “non tariff” and “technical barriers” to trade. While it is unclear precisely what form such “cooperation” would take, we understand that the proposals would entail several changes to EU and US law-making processes.

Here is our critical assessment of the new EU proposal:

1. The proposal makes it possible for the US to exert undue influence at a very
early stage of decision-making, before any proposal is considered by elected
bodies, namely the Council and the European Parliament. Judging from past
experience, such an approach can have a detrimental impact on regulation in
the public interest. It also undermines democracy.

2. The proposal provides big business groups with the tools to influence
legislation that they have been demanding, including a mechanism by which
transatlantic business coalitions can include their own preferences in the
regulatory cooperation working programme. The establishment of a broad
advisory group with the presence of public interest groups does not offset this
institutionalisation of lobbying.

3. The new proposal clearly identifies the European Commission and US
regulatory agencies as drivers and responsible actors for transatlantic
regulatory cooperation. The question of how it is supposed to function is
postponed until after the ratification of TTIP and thus to a moment when it gets
less public attention is on it. So we see no major improvement here. It implies
an unacceptable power grab by the Commission, strengthens the US impact on
EU regulation and weakens the role of the European Parliament. Even though
the proposal does not contain a Regulatory Cooperation Body (RCB) any
longer, its functions still remain.

4. The proposal gives immense powers to “regulatory authorities” (the
European Commission in the case of the EU) to decide on the development of
regulatory cooperation, including on the selection of areas which the two sides
are to cooperate on.

5. The new proposals imply an importation of elements of the US regulatory
system to the EU, among them an enhanced role for impact assessment by
means of cost-benefit analyses in the planning phase of legislation. The
balance between trade criteria and environmental and social issues is not met.
This could lead to the watering down and delay of important legislation in the
public interest.

Given the five points mentioned above, we ask you to end the TTIP
negotiations, as trade agreements are not the appropriate fora to decide on
our public interest laws.

Signed,

Amis de la Terre France
Asociaţia România Vie/Romania Alive Society
Attac Austria
Attac Bizkaia
Attac Denmark
Attac Germany
Attac Spain
Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND)
Campact
Campagna Stop TTIP Italia
Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos (COAG)
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
Ecologistas en Acción
Electronic Frontier Finland
European Digital Rights (EDRi)
Fairwatch (Italy)
Finnish TTIP Network
FÍS NUA
Forum für Umwelt- und Entwicklung
Global Justice Now
Greenpeace
Keep Ireland Fracking Free
Koalicija Proti Tajnim Sporazumom
LobbyControl
Mehr Demokratie e.V.
Oplysningsforbundet May Day
Plataforma Não ao Tratado Transatlântico
Portuguese Platform No to the Transatlantic Treaty
PowerShift e.V.
Protestival Slovenia
Red Solidaria contra la Ocupación de Palestina (RESCOP)
Seattle to Brussels Network (S2B)
Skiftet
Slovenski E-forum
Society Movement for Sustainable Development of Slovenia – TRS
Solidarna Bulgaria
Stop TTIP UK
SumOfUs
Bündnis TTIP Unfairhandelbar
Transnational Institute (TNI)
War on Want
Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF)
Wittener Bündnis gegen TTIP/CETA/TISA
Xnet
4th Group of the United Left

Graham Vanbergen – truepublica.org.uk



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