TTIP: No Lowering Of Standards, Officials Say; New Trade Consultation Body Scrutinised 20/02/2014 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)After three rounds of negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), European Union Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht this week welcomed the progress so far. But negotiators have to “step up a gear,” de Gucht said after a two-day stocktaking meeting with the United States Trade Representative Michael Froman in Washington, DC on 18 February. Meanwhile, a USTR announcement of new steps to raise public participation in trade negotiations met with questions. De Gucht rejected the option to split up the agreement into different parts and go ahead with easier parts like lower tariffs. “It is a single undertaking,” he said. “To isolate the tariff part of it would be a recipe of failure.” To go the whole way up to the much-debated transatlantic regulatory cooperation is expected to take more than the originally allotted time. De Gucht reported after the two-day meeting that he had discussed market access, tariffs, procurement, and also the regulatory part. On textile and agricultural tariffs the partners last week had exchanged official proposals. Compared to other proposals the EU had proposed something ambitious, de Gucht said, without mentioning figures. It was also more ambitious than what the US had put on the table, he added. EU: No Lower Standards on Data Protection, Beef or GIs As one of the “toughest nuts to crack,” he described the aim to allow equal benefits for large and small/medium enterprises. At the same time, the EU trade commissioner adamantly rejected the notion about a lowering of standards via TTIP. There would be no give and take on data protection, food safety and health standards. “I will make sure it does not become a dumping agreement,” he said. A lot of non-tariff trade barriers “can be removed without moving a millimeter.” Critics have warned regularly that acknowledgment of standards by another regulatory system might equate to accepting lower standards. Addressing one major issue discussed publicly in the European Union, the trade commissioner also several times reiterated “we will not introduce hormone beef into the EU market, full stop.” The US side accepts this, he said, and acceptance “has to be definite because otherwise we will not have an agreement.” On genetically modified organisms (GMOs), EU laws would have to be observed, he said. De Gucht also stressed the need for progress on so-called ‘rules’ issues, according to the release. These include measures to “ensure that, for specialized food and drinks products from specific regions in Europe, only those products can be marketed as such in the US (‘geographical indications’ or ‘GIs’).” The EU and US have not agreed on GIs in multilateral fora. USTR: Free Flow of Information, IP Protection Important Froman in a speech held just after the meetings with De Gucht at the Center for American Progress touched on intellectual property and freedom of the internet as major goals of the broader US trade agenda. “Investors should be able to patent their inventions, creators should be able to copyright their works,” he underlined. Froman said, for instance, that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is working against trade secret theft and cyber theft. At the same time, he applauded draft provisions in the TPP as it included balancing measures “to assure access and dissemination for all.” US negotiators are following a “differentiated approach for pharmaceutical IP protections” to allow for better access in poor countries. For the “first time in any trade negotiations, the TPP partners were asked to secure a robust balances in the copyright systems,” he noted, to allow for fair use, news commentary, and teaching. Froman also rejected that TPP was “related to SOPA. Don’t believe it, it’s not true,” he said. SOPA refers to the Stop Online Piracy Act, a US bill aimed at boosting IP protections that died after stirring public concern over online civil liberties. Instead, nothing would go beyond existing US law. A major point on the trade agenda is preservation of a “single global Internet, not a balkanized Internet limiting the free flow of information.” Not following an ambitious free trade agenda on the other hand could result also in an “accelerated rise of data nationalism.” More Public Participation Transparency and access to information in the negotiations has been a hot topic for some time and the EU and the US administrations both seemingly have felt compelled to react to it. The EU has established a TTIP Advisory Group, to which large industry associations like Business Europe as well as consumer organisations like European consumer group BEUC have been invited. It has also started a first broader public consultation on the controversial investor state dispute settlements (ISDS), which had according to de Gucht not been a topic during the stocktaking review now. For the US, Froman announced a new Public Interest Trade Advisory Committee (PITAC), as well as the re-chartering of advisory groups. Froman called on non-governmental organisations and academia to submit their candidates to become founding members of the PITAC. Advocacy and academic organisations reacted critically to the TTIP advisory group and PITAC announcements, calling them “fig leaves” and “optics” as long as there was no full access to the negotiated documents. For example, the controversial draft of the TPP IP chapter became available after it had been leaked by Wikileaks. Public Citizen in a press release commented: “It’s a good thing that the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has finally acknowledged the widespread outrage over the closed, special-access-for-industry process that guides U.S. trade policymaking. But what is needed is a change in operations and policy, not just optics.” Members of the Legal Committee of the European Parliament at a hearing on regulatory cooperation last week, too, called for a more open discussion with citizens. Members from different political parties questioned how transparency could be ensured in the new concept of regulatory cooperation and a regulatory committee that is discussed as part of the TTIP. While all experts applauded the potential of early warnings on new regulations on both sides of the Atlantic or even harmonisation of regulation, the politicians cautioned against yet another level of rule-making that would allow for preferential access for some. In the press release on the TTIP stocktaking this week, the European Commission spoke about going the extra mile. Yet there seem to be more miles to cover for negotiators. Round four will commence on 10 March. President Obama and Commission President Barroso will meet 26 March for broader talks. De Gucht and Froman will meet over the summer again, according to the commissioner. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Monika Ermert may be reached at email@example.com."TTIP: No Lowering Of Standards, Officials Say; New Trade Consultation Body Scrutinised" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.