The European Commission has published the negotiating documents for ongoing transatlantic trade talks, following sustained calls for increased transparency.
The European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, who investigates complaints of maladministration by EU institutions, began investigating the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks in summer 2014. In a statement released yesterday, the Ombudsman demanded more disclosure.
“US resistance to publishing certain TTIP documents is not in itself sufficient to keep them from the European public,” a statement from O’Reilly’s office read. The Commission, meanwhile continues to claim the discussions have been the most open trade talks in history.
The newly-released documents spell out the EU’s strategic interests in fields such as engineering, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, vehicles, chemicals and ICT. Accompanying the texts are reader’s guides to explain them.
The EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said more documents would be published after the next round of talks with the US in February.
There is rising resistance to TTIP, with sensitive and long-standing differences in certain sectors ranging from washing chicken in chlorine to remove bacteria, to the labelling of genetically modified organisms and foodstuff.
The date for reaching a final deal is unclear: it could happen as early as the end of this year, or as late as 2017.
The documents highlight to the EU’s hoped for outcomes in various fields. For example, in talks on pharmaceuticals, the EU would like the sharing of laboratory inspections reports and an agreement on exchanging confidential information on drug authorisations with the US.
In the field of medical devices, one of the EU’s stated intentions is to create a common application form for companies applying for approval of something like a new scanner or pacemaker.
In talks on intellectual property rights, the EU acknowledges the concern that new, “rules in TTIP may increase prices for new pharmaceutical products.” EU negotiators maintain, however, that they are working on the basis that, “the current balance between innovation and keeping medicines affordable is essential for European public health services.”
On the issue of importing natural gas, a major sticking point for both sides, the EU states that, “The shale revolution in the US has so far only led to increased coal imports into the EU.
"Replacing the import of coal by natural gas will have a positive effect: it will reduce our CO2 levels rather than that increasing them,” the text on energy reads.
More generally, the texts seek to give assurance that the EU will continue to make laws on new or emerging scientific issues whenever needed, and that agreements with the US will not weaken or delay the process.European Commission press release here
European Ombudsman statement here
TTIP texts here