The 7th round of negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) kicks off in Washington DC today, amid growing civil society protests at the dangers of the proposed deal for democracy and essential regulations in the areas of public health, safety, the environment and the financial sector.
Dozens of civil society groups from all across Europe have released a joint statement denouncing EU plans for regulatory cooperation as well as the continued secrecy surrounding the talks. EU negotiators have repeatedly claimed that protection levels are not under threat, and that standards will not be lowered as a result of the TTIP talks. However, these statements have been consistently disproved by documents leaked from the negotiations. In particular, the implications of the proposals for "regulatory cooperation" at the horizontal level or on specific sectors, such as the EU proposals on chemicals, and financial regulation, all suggest that current protection levels (and the possibility for legislators to improve these in the future) will be undermined through the TTIP.
While the leaked EU proposal for horizontal cooperation in the field of regulation bears strong resemblance to proposals tabled by a handful of powerful corporate lobby groups, civil society questions about the exact content and implications of such a proposal on essential protection standards have only been partially answered.
Kenneth Haar from Corporate Europe Observatory said: "The Trade Commissioner has said on various occasions that protection levels, be they on food or chemicals or other areas, will not be lowered as a result of the negotiations. The problem is that everything he does points in a different direction."
This is of particular concern in a context of strong industry dominance of the discussions, while the majority of the public is being left in the dark about the exact direction of the talks – relying on leaked documents to get information about what is negotiated on their behalf.
Natacha Cingotti from Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The leaked EU plans for regulatory cooperation fuel concerns about the negative impact of TTIP on essential protections for citizens and the environment. All the signals lead us to believe the talks are a Trojan horse which risks undoing decades of progress to protect citizens and our environment and benefits only big business."
The groups have urged negotiators to take proposals on regulatory cooperation off the negotiation table, and echoed the growing call for full transparency around the negotiations. Along with the civil society statement Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe and LobbyControl have published a briefing on the dangers of the EU proposals on regulatory cooperation. Max Bank from Lobby Control said: "We want to make sure that there is a wide public debate about an issue that will affect all Europeans. Regulatory cooperation in TTIP is a covert attack on democracy and regulation."