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Leaked : TTIP negotiations to constrain regulations that protect public interest

Key points:

Since December 2013, NGOs, social movements, and politicians have harshly criticised the European Commission's (EC) proposal on 'regulatory co-operation' 1in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). They argue that a position paper, leaked back then, suggested the Commission was opening the door to massive influence by big business over future laws. Now, a leaked document shows the Commission is maintaining its course – nothing suggests it is taking civil society concerns into account. In a previous document from December 2014, the EC goes even further, suggesting limiting the policy space of municipalities and local authorities – though this idea is under fire and might not be part of the EU position, it is a sign that regulatory co-operation could prove to be not only very comprehensive, but outright dangerous to democracy.

... there was always a gap between the Commission's documents for public consumption, and the actual texts from the negotiations that have emerged via leaks. And the recent leaks of new proposals from December 2014 and January 2015 not only confirm the validity of the criticism; on a couple of points they show that the true negotiating position is even worse than critics imagined.”

Regulatory co-operation is dear to the hearts of the big business lobby groups on both sides of the Atlantic. In late 2012, BusinessEurope and the US Chamber of Commerce had several meetings with the EU Commission to push their proposals. They understand it as an ironing out divergence in laws in the long term – be it in food standards, chemicals approval, or rules on production methods, to name but a few. [...] The two groups presented the Commission with a series of proposals at the 2012 meetings, which in sum would enable them – in their words – to 'co-write regulation'. Bearing this in mind, it is no surprise that the strong similarities between the Commission's proposals and those of the industry lobbyists sparked a backlash against the onerous privileges being awarded to business groups.”

... if one bears in mind that the overwhelming majority of lobbyists in Brussels represent business, then it becomes clear that involving stakeholders is another expression for opening yet one more avenue for corporate lobbyists to influence policymaking. Past experiences of involvement of 'stakeholders' in 'regulatory co-operation' between the EU and the US have demonstrated that these procedures are easily open to big business and often closed to other interest groups. And last, but not least: the agenda of regulatory co-operation is first and foremost about promoting trade – not about securing consumer rights, public health, or any other public policy objective.

According to the proposal, as soon as a new regulation is in the pipeline, businesses should be informed through an annual report, and be involved. This is now called 'early information on planned acts', until recently called 'early warning'. Already at the planning stage, 'the regulating Party' has to offer business lobbyists who have a stake in a piece of legislation or regulation, an opportunity to 'provide input'. This input 'shall be taken into account' when finalising the proposal (article 6). This means businesses, for instance, at an early stage, can try to block rules intended to prevent the food industry from marketing foodstuffs with toxic substances, laws trying to keep energy companies from destroying the climate, or regulations to combat pollution and protect consumers.

'Regulators' will get the key role. On the European side, this will be the European Commission, on the US side it will be representatives from the so-called Office of Information on Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – according to the position paper from December 2013.. With close co-operation already well established between businesses and regulatory agencies in both the EU and US, this empowering of regulatory bodies would help ensure stronger business impact on policy.

In the latest document, the text on regional authorities has been stricken or watered down considerably, allegedly due to opposition from some member states.”

The documents known to the public so far tell a story of negotiators trying to modify decision-making processes to enhance trade and investment with little regard for the consequences to our democratic institutions. In fact, they are suggesting complex procedures to fit businesses interests. The claim in the Commission's fact sheet that the 'right to regulate in the public interest' is safeguarded has little root in the reality of its leaked document. The latter shows that the scope of regulatory co-operation in TTIP might even endanger the right to regulate at the municipal and regional levels.

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