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EU Calls for Greater Transparency in TTIP Talks

As talks on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) continue, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called for increased transparency surrounding the trade agenda.

If successfully settled, TTIP would reduce–and in some cases remove–tariffs or taxes applied to imports between the United States and the European Union. The EU and US are also working to negotiate on other trade barriers like differences in technical regulations, standards and approval procedures under the deal.

In a meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Karel Du Gucht Tuesday, MEPs said EU citizens should be better informed of progress on the talks, and voiced concerns about what the partnership could mean for conditions in Europe.

Some members acknowledged that a TTIP deal could foster economic and job growth for the region, but others said it could not only erode the EU’s health, social and environmental standards, but its right to regulate by giving investors the right to sue governments under an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause, according to an EU Parliament statement.

Daniel Caspary, a member of the European People’s Party (EPP), said the proposed deal would provide “great opportunities for citizens, consumers and companies.” He added, “It is about the elimination of tariffs on lorries, cars, shoes or clothing, and not about reducing workers’ rights or lowering consumer protection standards.”

Despite concerns about standards suffering at the hands of the deal, David Martin, speaking for the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), said the partnership could be the EU’s last chance to set global standards. Should the deal fail to come to fruition, Martin said China, Brazil and India will set them and put the EU industries at a significant disadvantage.

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But Helmut Scholz, speaking for the Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), argued that the negotiations should cease altogether. “Considering the NSA spying scandal, there is no basis for a trade agreement if the US does not commit to protecting the data of European citizens or economic operators,” he said.

“What’s up for negotiation here is how we deal with environment protection, health and social issues, public services, intellectual property, agriculture and food. These key issues are being negotiated behind closed doors (…) to dilute the European project in a big transatlantic market,” Yannick Jadot of the Greens/EFA group added.

Matteo Salvini, a non-attached member from Italy said speaking of the trade deal, “We don’t really trust this.” He added, “The United States are much cleverer than we are. They are protecting themselves, while Brussels is not even able to protect what we are producing in Europe.”

De Gucht reassured the MEPs that the trade talks were not about lowering EU standards but “reducing the amount of red tape” between the nations. He told the Commission he would work to make the talks more transparent by insisting the Council make its negotiating mandate for the talks publicly available, but the council has not yet achieved the majority agreement necessary to do so.