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17th Feb 2019

Germany protests lack of transparency in US trade talks

  • Activists posing as German chancellor Merkel (r) and economy minister Gabriel (l) in front of the Bundestag. MPs do not have access to TTIP documents. (Photo: Die Grünen)

The German government has protested to the US authorities against the lack of access for German MPs to TTIP talks documents.

According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, the German ambassador in Washington was asked by Berlin to notify a formal protest to US trade representative Michael Froman and request that MPs can access documents related to the EU-US negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

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The ambassador and the US official were due to meet Thursday evening (12 November) in Washington.

The German government wants to address "the public reproach that TTIP is negotiated beyond the reach of parliaments and with disregard for democratic rights," the instruction to the ambassador quoted by the newspaper said.

Last month, the president of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, protested that members of the parliament did not have access to the documents.

Only 139 German ministry of finance officials were authorised to look at the so called consolidated texts, which gather both EU and US positions on the talks, at the Berlin US embassy, and only for two days a week between 10.00am and 12.00 noon.

'Democratic'

The rules on access to documents were agreed by the EU Commission, which is responsible for the talks in the name of European governments, and US authorities.

While the documents are accessible to all member of Congress in Washington, they are visible only to some MEPs in reading rooms in Brussels. Reading rooms in US embassies were open in member states last spring to alleviate criticism on lack of transparency.

But this is proving insufficient for some governments, as the German protest shows.



In September, French trade minister Mathias Fekl said talks were going on "in a complete lack of transparency and a big opacity."

"This poses a democratic problem," he said, adding that France could leave the talks if no progress was made.

In October, German parliament chief Lammert also warned that there was "no chance that the Bundestag would ratify a trade agreement between the EU and the USA without involvement in how it came together or any say regarding alternatives."

But on 4 November, the European Ombudsman closed a case against the EU Commission over lack of access to TTIP documents.

"The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found no maladministration by the Commission," her office said.

"Some of the concerns raised by the complainants had already been addressed in the context of the Ombudsman's own-initiative inquiry on the transparency of the TTIP negotiations."

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Anti-TTIP demonstrators do not trust European negotiators, who will engage in the 11th round of discussions next week in Miami.

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Berlin: 35 square metres of TTIP transparency

German MPs can access the secret texts of the EU-US free trade agreement in a special reading room set up by the ministry of economy under very strict conditions.

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