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Trade Secrets – Draft EU documents reveal trade agenda with U.S

Article by Karen Hansen Kuhn, published on http://www.iatp.org/ on July 3, 2013

Transparency and trade negotiations don’t seem to go together these days. Recent revelations in Spiegel disclosed that the U.S. government had been spying on its EU “partners” connected to negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, probably better stated as the Trans Atlantic Free Trade agreement, or TAFTA, which very much rhymes with NAFTA). The French and German governments are outraged, with some parliamentarians calling for a suspension of the talks, slated to start next week in Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, the only way civil society groups find out about the negotiations are through basically one-way conversations, where we express our concerns to trade officials, or through leaked negotiating documents. One such text came our way over the weekend, a set of position papers summarizing some of the EU’s initial goals on regulatory harmonization, which would be sent to the U.S. ahead of the talks. It includes initial proposals on regulatory issues involving the automotive sector, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, Sanitary and Phytosanitary issues (SPS), competition policy, a proposal for a chapter on trade and sustainable development, trade in raw materials and energy, and an ambitious proposal for cross-cutting disciplines on regulatory issues. It starts out by asserting that, “the TTIP offers a unique chance to give new momentum to the development and implementation of international regulations and standards (multilateral or otherwise plurilateral). This should reduce the risk of countries resorting to unilateral and purely national solutions, leading to regulatory segmentation that could have an adverse effect on international trade and investment.”

Consistent multilateral rules on difficult issues make sense, but let’s make sure trade is put in its place. Rules that provide for a safe workplace, protect public health and the environment, and promote energy and food security have been lost in trade agreements of the past. And the fact is that many advances in standards start at the local level and work their way to the national and, ideally, international levels. The recent votes for GMO labeling in Connecticut and Maine are a good example of this. To be fair, the proposal highlights the “importance of regulatory action to achieve public policy objectives” and states that it should not be used to lower standards in either country. But many regulations on difficult issues such as GMOs, questionable food additives like ractopamine, and emerging technologies such as engineered nano materials in food, need extensive public debate with a bias towards raising standards. The paper proposes steps to increase cooperation among regulatory authorities on both sides of the Atlantic, but makes no mention of public participation in that process. Sadly, the precautionary principle, which is the basis of EU law on many of these issues and is enshrined in the Treaty of Lisbon, is entirely absent from the document.

The document also includes a first informal discussion draft, a “non paper,” on public procurement. The EU has expressed its intention in other fora to include procurement commitments at all levels, i.e., including state and municipal governments. That goal is repeated here, along with the aspiration to include procurement commitments in all goods and all sectors. This could mean that programs that support local and sustainable foods, like local farm to school programs, could be on the table in the trade talks. The U.S. has excluded procurement commitments on food from other trade agreements, but it seems that this, along with possible commitments on living wage laws and Buy America programs, could be up for grabs.

Taken together, this agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would regulate a vast share of global trade. They would undoubtedly set the standards for rules in other bilateral or regional agreements too, and could eventually circle back to set the rules at the WTO. And they matter because, especially in the case of TAFTA, they are not so much about trade in goods and services per se, but about “regulatory cooperation.” That term means a lot of things in different sectors. In our food system, it has the potential to set public health and environmental standards at the lowest possible level in order to resolve pesky “trade irritants” like food safety laws and regulations on new food technologies and questionable food additives.

The new GMO labeling laws, public preference programs for local foods and countless local environmental rules were developed in the light of day and through a vigorous public debate. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has so far shown little inclination to take the trade talks out of the shadows, either during the talks or when the resulting deals go to Congress. Despite leading secret negotiations, it is expected to push for Fast Track negotiating authority this summer, which would limit Congress to an up or down vote on any trade deal (with no amendments) and put strict limits on debate.

In the wake of the spying scandal, EU trade officials are calling for greater transparency in the trade talks, especially on just what information the US obtained. Officials on both sides of the Atlantic should commit to open the talks, and listen to proposals on fair trade and better food systems. Some 34 civil society groups from the U.S. and EU issued this letter last week, calling on trade negotiators to negotiate higher standards or abandon the talks. Other calls for transparency and against unfair provisions on investment, intellectual property rights and energy exports are on the way. That is what really should be on the agenda next week in D.C.

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No to a corporate driven agreement!

8 July, 2013 – Remained unheard the demands to stop the negotiations, which arose after the scandal of the spying activities of the NSA on European representatives, the first round of negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Agreement (TTIP, aka TAFTA) is starting today, Monday 8th July in Washington, DC. With an open letter to President Obama, EU Commission President Barroso and EU Council President Van Rompuy, more than 60 organisations from Europe and the US have raised their voice. The letter shows their concerns about the coming negotiations and state their opposition to the use of behind-closed-door trade negotiations to change and lower public interest measures for the sake of commercial interests (Read or download the letter and the list of signing organisations)

Update: the Transnational Trade and Investment Agreement at the starting line

TTIP Mandate to negotiate with the U.S.A was adopted by the EU Council on 17th June. Trade Ministers of the EU agreed to exclude cultural and audio-visual services from the mandate, but the Commission will be allowed to propose again the issue in a later stage of the negotiation. In spite of the scandals arising for the spying activities of the U.S. secret NSA over European countries, the first round of negotiations is planned for next 8 July 2013 in Washington, DC.

Useful comments/Analysis

Reactions on bugged EU-Facilities – “Meltdown of a democratic state”

The NSA Eavesdropping on an EU representation provoked angry reactions: Negotiations on a free trade agreement between Europe and the U.S. are at risk, according to the CDU. A Green calls even an action before the International Court of Justice.

Hamburg – “Unbearable”, “hateful”, “nobody is safe”: The latest revelations about the spying activities of the U.S. secret NSA care for angry reactions. According to SPIEGEL information, Americans have bugs hidden in the EU representation in Washington and infiltrated the computer network. EU leaders condemn the actions in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE.

“We still need more detailed information,” says Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. “But if that’s true, it’s a huge scandal,” said the SPD politician. “Then that means a huge strain on the relations between the EU and the United States. We now require comprehensive education.”

“If these reports are true, is the abominable,” said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. “Here are the secretservices apparently out of control., The U.S. should be monitoring their intelligence rather than their allies.” Asselborn spoke of a breach of trust: “Everything is justified by the United States that, you fight terrorism, but the EU and its diplomats are not terrorists, we must get the highest point of a guarantee now that this will cease immediately…”

“The spying has taken on proportions that I have not held by a democratic government possible,” says Elmar Brok, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. “It is intolerable when one behaves with allies like that.” The U.S., which had once been the land of freedom, “are under security syndrome” continues the CDU politician. “They have completely abandoned the proportionality. George Orwell’s nothing against it.”

“It is unacceptable that European diplomats and politicians are spied in their everyday lives,” says Manfred Weber, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament and safety expert. “The confidence is shaking,” said CSU man on.

“Free Trade Agreement with the United States break”

Green MEPs call for far-reaching consequences. “It’s the meltdown of the rule of law,” says Jan Philipp Albrecht, Green Member of the European Parliament. The actions of the NSA was nothing less than “spy against democratic countries and their institutions.” “No one is safe anymore,” outraged politicians, negotiating with the EU Data Protection Regulation for the EU Parliament. The EU must initiate proceedings before the International Court of Justice against the United States, calls Albrecht. The disclosures required “relentless enlightenment”.

Still going on Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament. “A simple note of protest now not enough anymore,” he says. “The EU must immediately stop the negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Before we even need a data protection agreement, so that such a thing never happens again. Only then can we begin discussions again.”

CDU man Brok’s not quite as far, but the agreement provides at least risk. “How else can you negotiate when you have to worry that their own negotiating position is pre-tapped,” he asks.

The attack on the EU institutions is a further level of spy activities by the NSA. For weeks, details emerge about Prism and other surveillance programs that the whistleblower Snowden has assembled. The British intelligence agency GCHQ will therefore result in a similar program called tempora, be monitored by the world’s telephone and Internet connections.

According to the documents, which SPIEGEL has read, the EU representation has been attacked in like manner as those in Washington at the United Nations. In the NSA document of September 2010, the Europeans are expressly named as an attack target.

The U.S. is silent on the revelations of DER SPIEGEL. “I can not comment on that,” U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said, according to the news agency dpa on Saturday to journalists in Pretoria.

German Source: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/bild-908570-514792.html

Hamburg – “Unbearable”, “hateful”, “nobody is safe”: The latest revelations about the spying activities of the U.S. secret NSA care for angry reactions. According to SPIEGEL information, Americans have bugs hidden in the EU representation in Washington and infiltrated the computer network. EU leaders condemn the actions in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE.

“We still need more detailed information,” says Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. “But if that’s true, it’s a huge scandal,” said the SPD politician. “Then that means a huge strain on the relations between the EU and the United States. We now require comprehensive education.”

“If these reports are true, is the abominable,” said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. “Here are the secretservices apparently out of control., The U.S. should be monitoring their intelligence rather than their allies.” Asselborn spoke of a breach of trust: “Everything is justified by the United States that, you fight terrorism, but the EU and its diplomats are not terrorists, we must get the highest point of a guarantee now that this will cease immediately…”

“The spying has taken on proportions that I have not held by a democratic government possible,” says Elmar Brok, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. “It is intolerable when one behaves with allies like that.” The U.S., which had once been the land of freedom, “are under security syndrome” continues the CDU politician. “They have completely abandoned the proportionality. George Orwell’s nothing against it.”

“It is unacceptable that European diplomats and politicians are spied in their everyday lives,” says Manfred Weber, Vice-Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament and safety expert. “The confidence is shaking,” said CSU man on.

“Free Trade Agreement with the United States break”

Green MEPs call for far-reaching consequences. “It’s the meltdown of the rule of law,” says Jan Philipp Albrecht, Green Member of the European Parliament. The actions of the NSA was nothing less than “spy against democratic countries and their institutions.” “No one is safe anymore,” outraged politicians, negotiating with the EU Data Protection Regulation for the EU Parliament. The EU must initiate proceedings before the International Court of Justice against the United States, calls Albrecht. The disclosures required “relentless enlightenment”.

Still going on Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament. “A simple note of protest now not enough anymore,” he says. “The EU must immediately stop the negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. Before we even need a data protection agreement, so that such a thing never happens again. Only then can we begin discussions again.”

CDU man Brok’s not quite as far, but the agreement provides at least risk. “How else can you negotiate when you have to worry that their own negotiating position is pre-tapped,” he asks.

The attack on the EU institutions is a further level of spy activities by the NSA. For weeks, details emerge about Prism and other surveillance programs that the whistleblower Snowden has assembled. The British intelligence agency GCHQ will therefore result in a similar program called tempora, be monitored by the world’s telephone and Internet connections.

According to the documents, which SPIEGEL has read, the EU representation has been attacked in like manner as those in Washington at the United Nations. In the NSA document of September 2010, the Europeans are expressly named as an attack target.

The U.S. is silent on the revelations of DER SPIEGEL. “I can not comment on that,” U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said, according to the news agency dpa on Saturday to journalists in Pretoria.

German Source: http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/bild-908570-514792.html