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Home » Elections and Governance, EU-US Relations, TTIP

L’enfant terrible: TTIP and the birth of weak regulation

Submitted by on 22 Apr 2015 – 17:03

 Lora Verheecke from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) argues that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will undermine the regulatory power of parliaments on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Photo: Jess Hurd

Photo: Jess Hurd

The EU-US negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have been the focus of mounting public debate and increasing concerns over its far-reaching and irreversible consequences

One of the major concerns over the impact of the proposed deal is Regulatory Cooperation. Regulatory cooperation is the proposal to ensure compatibility and coherence between European and American standards. It was at the heart of the eighth round of TTIP talks in Brussels from 2nd to 6th February.

While regulatory cooperation will significantly impact lawmaking, and potentially limit the power of parliaments on both sides of the Atlantic, the negotiating text is nowhere to be found. Only one document is now public: the European Commission position on regulatory cooperation. While useful, this document does not indicate the scope and depth of the TTIP talks on regulatory cooperation as neither the US position nor the consolidated text of negotiations are publicly available.

Childbirth offers a handy, if admittedly rather odd, metaphor for how regulatory cooperation could impact lawmaking processes in Washington, Brussels, and at the US state and EU member state level.

The intention to “conceive” a law would have to be notified to the other “transatlantic parent” through the early information system (article 5). This will receive input from business stakeholders and from regulatory counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic. The central  gestational role of business in this system has already been described as a “ surreal institutionalisation of lobbying ”.

This early information process will apply to all planned regulatory acts ‘that have or are likely to have a significant impact on trade or investment’ (article 3), meaning more sectors than those covered by the TTIP will be impacted. It will also apply to “regulatory acts of US States and of the central national authorities of EU Member States” (General Notes n°2)

In its early developmental stage, the law will be forced to undergo a ‘prenatal scan’ in the form of an impact assessment to ensure the law does not have a negative impact on trade or investment and that existing rules across the Atlantic have already been taken into account. The checks will not consider the potential impacts on people and/or the environment. If it is deemed to carry negative consequences for trade, the scan will be performed again and again, to make sure the ‘baby’ is business proof.

Once the law is delivered, it will be examined by trade officials and corporate lobbyists before being shown to its rightful parents: the parliaments. (article 10)

This hijacking of processes that govern the birth of new legislation will also apply to laws already in place. One of the general objectives of regulatory cooperation is to promote “the compatibility of envisaged and existing EU and US regulatory acts” (Article 1)

For many civil society organisations, regulatory cooperation is clearly not in the best interests of ‘newborn’ and existing legislation but is instead an undemocratic proposal to ensure they conform with TTIP family values: corporate profit, weak regulation, and business lobby access to lawmaking.

 Lora Verheecke is a campaigner for Corporate Europe Observatory, a research group working to challenge the power of corporations and lobby groups in EU policy making.