USTR Wants More Transparency In Drawing Up EU Regulations — But Not In Drawing Up TAFTA/TTIP

from the hypocrisy,-thy-name-is-USTR dept

As we’ve noted many times before, one of the biggest problems with TAFTA/TTIP and TPP is the almost complete lack of transparency about the negotiations. Although the politicians like to assert that this is “inevitable” during any trade agreement where tough haggling over numbers needs to take place, this deliberately ignores the point that TPP and TTIP are not just trade agreements: they touch on areas that are the domain of public policy and democratic decision-making — things like regulations, standards, approaches to copyright and patents etc. According to the European Commission’s own figures, reductions in trade barriers are only expected to account for around 20% of the claimed economic benefits that could flow from TAFTA/TTIP: the rest comes from reducing “non-tariff barriers” — the rather loaded name given to things like health, safety and environmental standards.

Against that background of a total refusal to allow the general public access to negotiating documents — even those that are tabled, and therefore no longer secret — this story in the Financial Times about the US Trade Representative, Michael Froman, demanding greater openness is, at first sight, rather surprising (NB: subscription or free registration required):

The US push for greater transparency in EU regulations was first made in broad terms by Michael Froman, US trade representative, in a speech in Brussels last September. But in specific proposals put forward in closed-door negotiations in recent weeks the US has stepped up the campaign and made clear that it is one of Washington’s main negotiating priorities, according to people close to the talks.

Evidently, the USTR is looking for greater transparency only in the process of drawing up EU regulations, not more generally. That’s plainly because US companies intend to lobby Brussels even more vociferously in this area, and to do that they need full access to draft regulations. Here’s how Froman wants that to happen:

The US has proposed that EU regulators be required to publish the proposed texts of regulations and open them to public comment. It also wants regulators to be required to consider comments and explain why they had adopted — or failed to adopt — outside suggestions when they finalise regulations.

If such an approach were adopted, it would give US companies far more scope to intervene in the EU regulatory process, and perhaps enable them to take legal action against EU regulators — a threat that would boost US (and EU) corporate influence considerably.

Of course, what’s striking about those demands is that the reasoning given in support of them applies equally to the TAFTA/TTIP negotiations: we need to have the proposed texts published so that the public can comment on them and argue against measures there that are likely to have negative consequences for society. We also need to require negotiators to explain why they adopted or failed to adopt suggestions. The FT article quotes US officials as saying:

there is a growing emphasis on transparency in regulation and greater public consultations are increasingly important.

Except, it would seem, when it concerns secretive regulatory agreements like TAFTA/TTIP and TPP.

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Comments on “USTR Wants More Transparency In Drawing Up EU Regulations — But Not In Drawing Up TAFTA/TTIP”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The EU has learned this trick from the US. Now when it is not in their favor, suddenly the USTR wants to change the rules for the other side while keeping them for it’s own use.

The problem with this is what is mentioned and it is happening more and more on the international scale. The US has become the laughing stock of the globe through it’s own hard fought stance to hold hypocrisy as a standard when dealing with the rest of the world.

It bitches about China and Russia when it comes to personal freedoms but it refuses to look at it’s own house where many of the things are done the same way, enhanced by technology to make the items a sort of suped up, on steroids, equivalent.

It claims to want peace in the world and then shows that peaceful intent while shooting missiles at wedding parties and funerals.

It claims to stand for the right of freedom for all people but then turns around and shows how little that freedom means when it comes to privacy issues.

This sad list seems to have no end.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Political parallel reconstruction

Given there have been multiple ‘hints’ that the NSA has no problem applying their spying capabilities to ‘help out’ negotiations like this, I wonder if the desire to have things more open like this isn’t to enable the US negotiators to know how best to proceed, but to give them a believable excuse for the information they already have?

If the details are made public, and the US uses those details to make very specific efforts, that’s one thing, and expected really.

However, if the details are supposed to be secret, and the US’s efforts are still specifically targeted, then those involved are likely to wonder how exactly the US knew the details so well, which could end up backfiring next time the US is in negotiations with them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Political parallel reconstruction

I think they already have most of the information they need from ACTA-negotiations and public records of political stances.

No, this is clearly a question of getting ammunition for targeted campaigns against the partial bans on GMO, Chlorine chickens, transglutaminase and several other pieces of legislation where the political opposition is not based as much on science as popular discomfort/disgust.

If the politicians have to justify why they don’t want proposed legislation it could be a nightmare where a stall of 10,000 proposed changes/comments gets delivered and the legislation will never get done or it gets very targeted comments to steer the legislation in the direction the industry wants.
Either way, it is not even close to an advantageous way to do it for the public at large! Its real advantage is the potential to create a media-campaign to “inform” people. That kind of gimmick will be for very few moneyed people.

Anonymous Coward says:

i think you have that a little bit wrong. the transparency is for all negotiations that come from anywhere except the USA. any Trade Deals etc that stem from the USA are expected to remain as hidden as every one has up to now! that means that when the USA are trying to screw over any and all other countries involved, no one must know until it’s too late. when the USA is to take part or is invited, it wants to know exactly what it’s letting itself and it’s government/industries in for! fucking cheek of this bastard! expects deals to be struck only after the USA says ‘yes’ even when not an interested party, but doesn’t expect any other country to protect itself against the USA and the fuck ups it makes!

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