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TTIP is setting precedents for transparency

Making trade negotiations more transparent is not always simple as too much openness can seriously damage ones negotiating position and give away valuable bargaining chips. At the same time TTIP and trade are the focus of discussions across Europe. An open and broad public debate on the EU’s trade policy should be welcomed and facilitated. The European Commission is taking unparalleled and precedent-setting steps to open the negotiations up to public scrutiny, and to consult European constituents. TTIP negotiations are the most transparent EU trade negotiations in history.

Below are some of the principle initiatives that the European Commission has taken to improve the level of transparency of the TTIP negotiations.

Sharing negotiation documents

The European Commission is leading the TTIP negotiations on behalf of the 28 EU member states. For this, the European Commission was given a mandate by the EU’s 28 member state governments stating what can and what cannot be part of the TTIP negotiations. On 9 October 2014, the European Commission and the European Council decided to declassify and publish this negotiating mandate. Publishing the mandate helps to improve the level of transparency and allows more public scrutiny on what the European Commission is actually empowered to discuss with the United States.

On 25 November 2014, the European Commission announced an initiative to further enhance transparency (press release). Besides a general commitment to publish information about high-level meetings of political leaders and senior officials, the European Commission’s transparency initiative also set out to inject more transparency into the TTIP negotiations. In this respect, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström announced a wave of new transparency initiatives for TTIP.

Since then, the Commission has for instance published an array of accessible and comprehensive documents and information on its website. This for instance includes a full set of factsheets and negotiating texts for TTIP. The documents provide a chapter-by-chapter overview of what the EU aims to accomplish and set out the EU proposals for negotiation and inclusion in a future TTIP agreement with the US. It is the first time the Commission has made public such proposals in bilateral trade talks. This clearly reflects European negotiators’ commitment to greater transparency in the talks with their American counterparts.

In addition to its negotiating texts and textual proposals, the European Commission has also started publishing detailed reports on the TTIP negotiation rounds .These reports contain information about the progress and proceedings during the consecutive negotiating rounds of TTIP and explain in detail what negotiators discussed for each of the agreement's envisioned 24 chapters and what progress was achieved.

Already, a growing number of Members of European Parliament (MEPs) had been given insight into the negotiating documents to allow them to follow all the stages of discussions with the US. In December 2015, the European Commission and the European Parliament reached an agreement that will allow all MEPs to have access to all categories of confidential TTIP documents (press release). The negotiating documents the MEPs will be able to consult include the so-called “consolidated texts” which reflect the draft compromises between the EU and the US and are classified as EU-restricted, due to their sensitivity for the EU and the US.

Engaging with stakeholders

Listening to civil society’s concerns, the EU’s TTIP negotiators have also conducted a public consultation on investment issues. Likewise, a diverse group of external experts on industry, consumer interests, workers’ rights and environmental protection are advising the Commission. The group’s meetings records are being made available to the public.

In addition, European Commission representatives enter into dialogue with stakeholders by attending events organised by for instance the European Parliament, EU member states, business organisations or civil society representatives. Specific stakeholder meetings have also been taking place during the different TTIP negotiating rounds to allow stakeholders to interact with the Commission’s and US officials, share their views or give feedback on the negotiations.

To make full use of the opportunities offered by social media and allow broad engagement with the general public, the European Commission has also set up a specific EU TTIP team Twitter account to facilitate communication on the TTIP negotiations via the internet. Via the account the European Commission can give updates on its work but people can also use it to ask questions or make comments.

Ms Cecilia Malmström, the EU Trade Commissioner, also shared some her ideas about transparency via her blog in a specific blog post: Transparency in TTIP.

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