On 19 February, 2019, the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (or “INTA Committee”) adopted a Draft Motion for Resolution supporting the Juncker Commission’s intention to re-open international trade agreement negotiations with the US authorities. Although in favour of rules-based international trade and clearly endorsing the report on this point, CEEP remains prudent as to the direction next steps should take. The European Parliament’s plenary is expected to adopt this report, making it the Parliament’s official position, in March 2019, whilst the European Council shall likely do the same roughly at the same moment. CEEP strongly recommends that both institutions should keep the safeguard of European citizens’ basic interests and their legitimate concerns at the top of the list of priorities.

Several provisions within this report deserve attention. For example, on content-related aspects of these talks, the exclusion of agricultural products from the negotiation scope seems appropriate to protect European public health. But even more important are procedural guarantees and conditions on the process of negotiations. In particular, the INTA Committee’s clear stance in requiring a broad consultation process involving the civil society and a sustainability impact assessment as well as setting the condition that talks will only be triggered with a lift of current US tariffs on aluminium and steel (and shall be interrupted, should any new tariff be decided by the USA) are sine qua non preconditions to any step forward in this direction.

CEEP considers that poor performance of the European Commission’s negotiators in ensuring transparency and providing credible guarantees in terms of accountability were key in TTIP’s failure and anyway unfit to protect and foster the development of EU citizen’s common interest. Moreover, should this path be opened and notwithstanding the positive elements described above, more shall be needed in the negotiating mandate to adequately protect public services. Such provisions could include, inter alia, guarantees on public procurement regulation (access to tenders), specific provisions for small-scale local utilities (e.g. as derogatory regimes reducing administrative burden or providing legal protection), recognition of Services of General Interest (SGIs) as a legal notion… Much still needs to be done to ensure public acceptance on any new project – an obvious conclusion considering the narrow majority of this week’s vote in the INTA Committee (21 votes in favour, 17 against and one abstention).

CEEP’s Policy Officer for Public Services Alexis Le Coutour (alexis.lecoutour@ceep.eu) remains at your disposal for any further question regarding this matter.

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