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24th Mar 2017

EU commission to publish more trade documents in bid for public support

  • MEPs will get more access to documents relating to EU-US trade talks, the European Commission has pledged (Photo: Jan Albrecht)

The European Commission has pledged to increase the number of documents it makes public relating to ongoing free trade talks with the US in a bid to shore up public support for the negotiations.

The EU executive confirmed on Tuesday that it will make public all negotiating texts on the transatlantic trade and investment pact (TTIP) that are already shared with governments and MEPs, and classify fewer documents "EU restricted".

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It will also extend access to a 'reading room' for restricted documents to all MEPs.

In a statement on Tuesday (25 November), trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that the extra disclosure would enable the Commission to “show clearly what the negotiations are about and de-mystify them.”

The move is part of a wider transparency exercise by the EU executive. From the start of December, commissioners and senior staff will be required to publish on the Commission's website all contacts and meetings held with stakeholders and lobbyists.

It has also promised to propose a mandatory register for lobbyists working in the three EU institutions.

Critics of TTIP have complained that negotiations are held behind closed doors without records being made public.

An internal memo to the 28 commissioners commented that the new transparency measures were needed to help “win public trust and support for the TTIP”.

However, the publicly available documents will not include the most sensitive documents, including the offers made by the EU to the US on tariffs, services, investment and procurement, which the Commission deems to be “the essence of the confidential part of the negotiations”.

The TTIP is set to be subject to greater scrutiny than any previous free trade deal and the Commission will have to convince a sceptical public if it is to come into force.

Any agreement will have to be backed by the European Parliament, which rejected the anti-counterfeit treaty Acta in 2012 after complaining that the Commission had failed to keep it fully informed of the progress of negotiations.

The transparency move was also welcomed by MEPs, as well as Emily O’Reilly, the European Ombudsman. In July, O’Reilly urged the Commission to increase the number of documents it makes public and to publish records of meetings with lobbyists.

Marietje Schaake, Dutch liberal MEP, said it was an “important step forward”, while French Green MEP Yannick Jadot characterised the move as “baby steps” towards greater transparency, but added that “the devil will be in the detail”.

EU court backs commission on trade secrecy

The EU’s top court has ruled in favour of the European Commission’s right to protect the confidentiality of trade documents, in a move that will frustrate campaign groups seeking greater public access to EU trade negotiations.

EU-US trade talks in 'troubled waters'

EU-US trade talks are “in troubled waters” and need a “fresh start for parliament to approve an agreement”, its trade committee chairman has said.

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