Eoin Drea (Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies)
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated between the EU and the USA is built upon several core pillars. These pillars include the principle of a better market access for businesses, the strengthening of regulatory cooperation and the establishment of international rules and norms. During the negotiations of this agreement, dissenting opinions and concerns about the adoption of the treaty have increasingly been voiced all across Europe. As a result, we can find several deep-rooted critical opinions related to almost every section of the TTIP treaty, which do not always correspond with the reality,.
Critical voices in the domain of transparency and lobbying denounce the negotiation process as nondemocratic since the citizens do not enjoy sufficient means to control the treaty and the negotiations proceed behind closed doors. The European Commission (EC) attempts to face this criticism by publishing parts of the treaty after each round and also by public hearings and consultations. Agriculture represents another widely criticised sector and especially the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the liberalisation of trade in agricultural products are an eyesore to all the critics. The EU indeed does strive for the opening of agricultural products market, yet it wishes to do so only while strictly maintaining the current high European standards. The EU is nowadays employing one of the most rigid rules and regulations for GMOs in the entire world and GMO products can only be approved after the implementation of a more complex set of rules in the evaluation of risks by the European Food Safety Authority.
One of the presently most discussed topics falls within the domain of investment protection and Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Critical voices are rooted in the concerns about the opening of the gates for large corporations and their interests in the confrontation with EU legislation. They denounce the ISDS mechanism as a “massive Trojan horse”, thanks to which supranational corporations would obliterate European norms and regulations in all sectors. A considerable concern prevails also in the domain of high costs and the squandering of public finance in eventual court disputes. In response to these concerns, the EC has announced that the ISDS will only be included in the treaty in case of a wide consensus between Member States, nongovernmental organisations, trade unions and economic chambers.
(The study can be downloaded here)