Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Opinion

How TTIP could create a red tape labyrinth

  • 'It would create endless red tape for governments and weaken, slow down or completely stop the agreement of new standards' (Photo: communitiesuk/)

You would expect that after two years of negotiations between the EU and US on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), we would be well aware of all the controversies it contains.

But the worst is yet to come.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

As negotiators reconvene for talks in New York today (Monday April 20), a freshly leaked version of the European Commission’s proposal on a chapter known as ‘regulatory cooperation’ shows that the deal could put barriers in the way of all legislation.

Existing and future legislation from the Commission and the US government, as well as from the 28 EU member states and the 50 US states, could all become subject to unlimited challenges and red tape.

The objective of regulatory cooperation is to align existing and future rules in the EU and the US to "reduce unnecessarily burdensome, duplicative or divergent regulatory requirements affecting trade or investment".

While striving for regulatory cooperation might seem sensible and uncontroversial, a careful reading of the proposal rings loud alarm bells. Such a system would create endless red tape for governments and weaken, slow down or completely stop the agreement of new standards – and the revision of existing ones – to protect the public interest.

To achieve the desired alignment, the Commission proposes a regulatory cooperation body, composed of civil servants from both sides, tasked to assess whether legislative acts from the EU and US are compatible with each other and "trade and investment proof".

If they’re not, this body has the power to erect more barriers by proposing measures to increase harmonisation or reduce impacts on, and costs for, business – which governments are obliged to consider. It could, for instance, propose that joint EU-US or even international legislation is pursued first.

All of these measures are likely to result in weakening, slowing down or completely stopping the acts.

And worse, these recommendations can be made at any stage of the legislative process, thereby providing continuous opportunities to weaken and delay regulatory acts, even while those acts are under consideration by elected representatives.

Regulatory cooperation asks regulators to follow procedures likely to result in many years of delay, and obliges them to give serious consideration to every possible concern raised. It creates an enormous bureaucracy of civil servants who will have to evaluate every possible national and EU law for how they relate to similar laws in the US, and vice versa.

These processes will lead to new layers of red tape for governments resulting in high costs (to tax payers).

They are also likely to result in increasing unwillingness of EU and member state regulators to even attempt to introduce new laws to protect the public interest. The biggest impact of regulatory cooperation might be its preventative effect. If regulators are aware that at any stage of the process their work can be challenged, it will give them less appetite to strive for new, higher standards from the start.

The current EU proposal provides particularly promising opportunities for business to weaken or delay legislation that it considers a ‘trade irritant’, so basically any standard that creates extra costs for companies. The proposal prescribes that the EU needs to include in each regulatory process a stakeholder consultation and that it shall take into account the contributions received. This provides business groups with a strong tool by which to object to any new standards that can result in higher costs.

Last but not least, regulatory cooperation as it is proposed in TTIP will undermine the democratic functioning of the EU and member states by allowing a foreign country to scrutinise legislative proposals and push for their reconsideration even before democratically elected bodies, like the European Parliament, national parliaments and member states, have the possibility to judge them.

This gives enormous power to a small group of people, who are not accountable to the European public, to prioritise trade and investment concerns over all other interests.

Regulatory cooperation is a system that intentionally introduces hurdles and barriers to regulation-making.

It will undoubtedly lead to endless, often fruitless, negotiations between legislators on harmonising the rules. This labyrinth of red tape would create an effective blockade of every new environmental, health or labour standard in the EU.

Paul de Clerck works for Friends of the Earth Europe; Lora Verheecke for Corporate Europe Observatory and Max Bank for LobbyControl

Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?

Ahead of the European Parliament election in May, the bloc is ideologically split between authoritarians seeking to reduce its sway, and those seeking a moderate track. In essence, voters have to decide if they want to move forwards or backwards.

Russia and money laundering in Europe

After Danske Bank, both the US and the EU need to abandon the principle in bank regulation that it is all right to be a crook as long as you are big.

Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Jan Zahradil, EU Commission president Spitzenkandidat for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, responds to Emmaneul Macron's European vision ahead of the May elections.

A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension

At this week's summit, EU leaders should extend Article 50 until the May European elections. But they should postpone the effective date of the UK's withdrawal from EU rights, rules, and regulations for another year - to May 2020.

News in Brief

  1. EU tables plan for joint approach to 5G security
  2. MEPs agree to scrap summer time clock changes by 2021
  3. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  4. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  5. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  6. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  7. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  8. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm

Italy should capitalise on Brexit

Now that the UK is leaving, Italy can, and should, step up. It is the third largest country and economy in the EU. Spain and Poland follow, but they are significantly smaller economically and population-wise.

The Magnitsky Act - and its name

It is disappointing that so many MEPs in the Socialist and Green group caved in to Russian interests, in fear of challenging a plutocratic regime, by saying 'no' to naming the Magnitsky legislation by its rightful name: Magnitsky.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. EU lawmakers pass contentious copyright law
  2. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  3. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  4. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  5. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  6. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  7. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  8. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us