Sunday

17th Nov 2019

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 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join 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. Catalan politicians extradition hearing postponed
  2. Germany: EU banking union deal possible in December
  3. EIB: no more funding of fossil-fuel projects
  4. UK defence chief: Russia could trigger World War III
  5. Hungary's Varhelyi will face more questions
  6. Police put former Berlusconi MEP Comi under house arrest
  7. MEPs criticise Poland for criminalising sex education
  8. UK will not name new commissioner before election

Podcast

Cultural Battlefield

Marta Keil knows firsthand the pressure on culture from Poland's ruling Law and Justice party. Her overview begins at the Polski theatre in the city of Wrocław, and describes an epic clash as the Polish museum sector is steadily hollowed-out.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. France unveils new model EU enlargement
  2. Key moments for new commission This WEEK
  3. EU threatens legal action against UK over commissioner
  4. Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room
  5. Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner
  6. EU states fell short on sharing refugees, say auditors
  7. Hungary's commissioner-to-be grilled over loyalty to Orban
  8. Widow's plea as EU diplomats debate Magnitsky Act

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us