Business’ Privileged Access To EU-India Trade Documents

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The Corporate Europe Observatory and the European Commission presented their arguments in a case over access to documents about the EU-India free trade agreement before the General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg last Friday.

The observatory (CEO) is a Brussels-based transparency watchdog that describes its mission as exposing and challenging the privileged access and influence enjoyed by corporations and their lobby groups in EU policymaking.

In the case numbered T-93/11, the CEO complained about privileged access of business to 17 documents in the EU-India FTA negotiations. According to a report of the oral hearing by the CEO, the Commission has argued that public disclosure of the document would “negatively affect relations with India,” while CEO pointed to the broad sharing of the documents with business including a recommendation to industry to lobby for their cause.

The Commission’s lawyer, according to the report, pointed to protests against the FTA and a call to halt talks signed by over a 100 civil society groups as “the real danger”. Business lobbyists, on the other hand, would not share with the “people overall,” the lawyer said.  The German Ministry of Economics, meanwhile, intervened on behalf of the Commission.

CEO expert Pia Eberhardt said that her organisation had been experiencing a trend towards more secrecy in EU trade politics in recent years, potentially a reaction to vigorous public campaigns. With regard to the EU-India FTA negotiations, Eberhardt observed that several legislative initiatives in India seem to anticipate FTA provisions concerning the opening of public services and access to the supermarket field. A ruling by the court is expected later this year. Paradoxically, complaints and arguments in the transparency case are confidential according to the rules of the court.

The case file on the website of the General Court, is linked here.

Related Intellectual Property Watch story, here.


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