Wednesday

14th Apr 2021

EU-US trade talks could become 'another Acta'

  • The international anti-counterfeit treaty was voted down by the EU parliament (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

EU-US free trade talks risk following the same path as Acta, the controversial anti-counterfeit treaty which collapsed in 2012.

The European Commission spent several years negotiating the Acta treaty, a multilateral agreement, on the EU's behalf, but MEPs threw it out in July 2012, following public protests in a number of European capitals.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Its critics did not like the the potential reach of criminal sanctions or the policing role of Internet service providers.

But they focused their ire on the secrecy of the negotiations, with few documents being made public or released to national parliaments.

The EU executive has offered unprecedented access to documents on the EU-US trade deal, or TTIP, to interest groups and the European Parliament. It has also held meetings with member states' officials to co-ordinate press coverage across the EU.

But for Monique Goyens, the director of Beuc, a pan-EU organisation representing consumer groups, it has not gone far enough.

"The Acta lesson has not been learned … the commission didn't accept the reasons behind its failure," she told this website.

"There is a risk that this [TTIP] will go the same way," she added.

Goyens accepts that the EU executive is more forthcoming than on any previous trade negotiations.

But she says it is not enough: "There has been progress from a 0 percent starting point but we want 100 percent."

She noted that the commission is to set up a TTIP advisory committee representing business and consumer interest groups, expected to meet for the first time in mid-January. But she added that no one knows what the committee's terms of reference will be.

"It is not clear whether this is just window-dressing," she said.

An EU official also confirmed that the composition and role of the committee has not been finalised.

Meanwhile, EU and US trade negotiators reconvene in Washington this week for the third round of`talks.

Negotiators are still at the stage of agreeing which topics will be on the table, but the commission believes that a final deal can be wrapped up by the end of 2014.

Both sides have emphasised the potential economic benefits of an agreement.

The commission predicts that a deal could be worth up to €119 billion for the EU economy, or an extra €545 per year to an average family of four.

But for Goyens the figures are misleading.

She warned that people "will feel cheated from overselling the economic benefits."

She also noted that the €545 per family figure is a projection for 2027 and that some individual sectors will suffer job losses, a possibility that is never mentioned in the Commission's briefing material.

"There is a difference between reality and what comes out of DG Trade," she noted, referring to the commission department which handles TTIP, and which also handled Acta.

Her biggest beef is about the so-called investor state dispute resolution mechanism, however.

The system would allow foreign investors to bring a claim against an EU government or the US if they feel they are being denied fair treatment.

But critics say that investor claims can prevent governments from passing legislation and that arbitrations are carried out in secret by trade lawyers.

For its part, a commission document states that the system is needed to "provide guarantees to companies that their investments will be treated fairly and on an equal footing to national companies."

Goyens said "the main problem is that it is too easy for a company to sue a government."

She noted that the ISD system as it stands now is "totally unacceptable and would be vetoed [by MEPs] for sure."

"The best solution would be to drop it [the investor claim clause] or, if you don't drop it, then fundamentally change the conditions," she added.

Analysis

Liberty and the EU-US trade talks

The conflict over 'l’exception culturelle' is illustrative of a more fundamental dividing line in trade politics within the European Union.

News in Brief

  1. EU states make progress on Covid-19 'travel certificates'
  2. Michel pledges to protect von der Leyen's 'dignity' in future
  3. Libya frees UN-sanctioned human trafficker
  4. European court: jailed Turkish writer's rights violated
  5. EU set to miss 1m electric charging points by 2025 target
  6. Lavrov expects Iran nuclear deal to be saved
  7. France suspends flights from Brazil due to Covid variant
  8. Johnson & Johnson delays roll-out of vaccine in EU

Column

Muslims, Ramadan, and myths facing 'European civilisation'

Happy Ramadan? The UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief warned the Human Rights Council last month that institutional suspicion of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim has escalated to "epidemic proportions" worldwide.

Opinion

Will Romania be EU's Green Deal laggard?

Of the €30bn allocated to Romania under the EU recovery fund, just four percent is slated to go to renewable energy and energy-efficiency. Despite the pressing need to decarbonise Romania's heat and power sectors, this is not an investment priority.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. Nato and US urge Russia to back off on Ukraine
  2. Future EU platform seeks to 'stay clean' of hate speech
  3. Denmark threatens Syria deportations amid EU concerns
  4. MEPs raise concerns on vaccine 'travel certificates'
  5. Will Romania be EU's Green Deal laggard?
  6. Muslims, Ramadan, and myths facing 'European civilisation'
  7. Europe & Africa - rebuilding the future
  8. How the pandemic became an EU goldmine for crime

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us