8th November 2015

EC proposes ambitious sustainable development chapter in TTIP

Last week, the European Commission published the specific wording of EU´s proposal for a sustainable development chapter in TTIP. The text was shown to the US negotiators during the recent round of talks on 19-23 October in Miami. According to Cecilia Malmstroem, the trade commissioner, the chapter is EU´s most ambitious compared to any past trade agreement. The EU wants protection of environment standards and labor standards as part of the TTIP. As Commissioner Malmstroem stated, TTIP is not just about trade, it is also about values. And protection of environment and strong labor protection is part of EU values. Standards in the EU and in the US are high in both these areas, but they are different. The EU aims to have TTIP define a single set of rules, enforceable on both sides of the Atlantic. This should also have an external impact – by agreeing between ourselves, the EU and the US will to a large extent define sustainable development, environmental protection and labor safety standards for the global trade. The chapter also includes explicit statement about governments´ right to regulate and also bans the contractual parties to lower the standards in these areas to attract investment.

The publication of this next chapter (chapters on SMEs, regulatory cooperation and intellectual property rights are already public) is a clear sign of the Commission that it is committed to transparency. Many NGOs and a large portion of EU population criticize the EC for being too secretive. As a matter of fact, TTIP negotiations are more transparent than any past trade talks. EU wording of chapters, that were already submitted, is public. US proposals are accessible for policymakers. The EC published its negotiating mandate (highly unusual step and also a very non-tactical one in case of negotiations), reports on what it wants to achieve and summaries in reader-friendly language. Even after the publication of this recent chapter, the criticism was quick to appear. An NGO criticized the wording as too vague, for example as compared to the loathed ISDS new proposal, and lacking any enforcement clauses. The EC made it clear, however, that this sustainable development chapter is only the first step – it is the contents that are on the table. Enforcement will follow shortly, and it will provide strong mechanisms.

Apart from the chapter, the EC published a (first of its kind) detailed report on the latest round of talks, held on 19-23 October in Miami. The text of the report can be found here.

For more on the issue, click here and here.

Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic