EU Court Backs Secrecy, Privileged Industry Access In Trade Talks

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By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch

Secrecy in trade negotiations and privileged access for business and trade associations does not violate EU law, according to a judgment handed in by the Court of the European Union in Luxembourg today.

The court ruled against a 2011 complaint by the watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), which had asked for a list of documents about meetings of European Commission and member states officials with business representatives on the EU-India free trade agreement.

A press release on today’s judgment is available here

The Court wrote in the judgment that the documents requested were “provided to trade associations and companies participating as experts in the work” on the FTA “for the sole purpose of enabling all the participants to fulfil their roles as advisors to the Commission.”

Watchdog CEO, on the other hand, lacks that status. CEO, in a first reaction, warned that the decision risks “deepening the secrecy around EU trade negotiations” and could further legitimise the Commission’s “practice of granting corporate lobby groups privileged access to its policy-making, at the expense of the wider public interest.”

A discussion about more transparency to FTA negotiations is currently underway within the EU with regard to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the FTA to be negotiated between the EU and the US.

Given the increasingly vehement calls for more transparency in the EU, CEO will earnestly consider appealing the decision before the European Court of Justice, Pia Eberhardt from CEO said.

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