Saturday

6th Jun 2020

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

Support quality EU news

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. Poland accused of 'blatant violation' of EU court injunction
  2. EU concerned by US approach to Kosovo and Serbia
  3. City morgues cast doubt on Putin's virus data
  4. ECB increases pandemic stimulus to €1.35 trillion
  5. New EU cloud computing platform 'moonshot'
  6. City of Berlin passes anti-discrimination law
  7. Iran hits record corona cases in second wave
  8. EU job losses tell tale of pandemic damage

EU warns UK to abide by Brexit political declaration

"No significant progress" has been made on the latest round of talks between the UK and EU on how their relationship should look from January, according to Michel Barnier. The EU told UK to stick to its prior commitments.

Green Deal

CAP 'failed to halt biodiversity loss', auditors find

The European Court of Auditors has urged the European Commission to establish measurable commitments to tackle biodiversity loss caused by intensive farming - as the Common Agriculture Policy has so far failed to reverse this long-standing issue.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAHow reducing sugar and calories in soft drinks makes the healthier choice the easy choice
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersGreen energy to power Nordic start after Covid-19
  3. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  5. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition

Latest News

  1. EU warns UK to abide by Brexit political declaration
  2. Internal EU borders open by 15 June - bar V4, Portugal, Spain
  3. CAP 'failed to halt biodiversity loss', auditors find
  4. After Covid-19, deserted Venice struggles to survive
  5. Commission plans strategy to 'maximise' vaccine access
  6. How spies use women to steal EU secrets
  7. Hong Kong - when the Chinese Dream became a nightmare
  8. Right of reply: Letter from the Hungarian government

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us