How the European Commission may solve the Trade Transparency gap

Citizen enjoy a right of access to documents enshrined in the EU treaties. However, when they ask about documents from the ongoing trade negotiations (TTIP, TISA,…) access had usually been refused by the institutions. The reason for that unwillingness is the legal base of the public requests: EC/1049/2001. The EU sunshine law regulation EC/1049/2001 is from 2001 and does not:
– include European case law after 2001
– new rights under the Lisbon treaty
– transparency for trade procedures, even when they enter the regulatory domain

2008 a recast reform was launched. This reform was voted in Parliament but struck down in the Council under the Danish Presidency.

CETA – Keine Erkenntnisse

Aus einer Anfrage an die Bundesregierung geht hervor, dass Deutschland zwar von der Kommission gegenüber Drittstaaten vertreten wird, aber nicht ausreichend über die Gespräche informiert. Das verdeutlicht Nachbesserungsbedarf in der Administration von EU Kommissarin Malmström hinsichtlich Transparenz, auch gegenüber den Regierungen der Mitgliedstaaten. Sie präsentierte diese Tage eine “Neue Strategie”. Abgeordneter Harald Ebner (BÜNDNIS 90/ DIE GRÜNEN) Welche konkreten Themen wurden nach Kenntnis der Bundesregierung beim Treffen des EU-Canada Trade & Investment Subcommittee am 27. November 2014 unter den Tagesordnungspunkten 10 („GMO Import Authorizations“) und 12 („Food Labelling Issues“ inklusive Klonen) mit welchen Ergebnissen diskutiert?

ISDS Mantra

“Debating Europe” asked the Commissioner Malmström:
Can #TTIP negotiations proceed without the #ISDS mechanism? It is a very good question which the Commissioner did not answer. Here is my answer:
ISDS is just an enforcement layer and does not affect substantive elements. Thus we could do without. Historically, lack of enforcement layers was an academic critical talking point against the GATT process.

EU published 2 year old TiSA mandate

Today the EU declassified a two year old mandate of the member states to the European Commission to negotiate the services agreement TiSA. These mandates are drafted by the European Commission and approved by the member states in the European Council and authorise the European Commission to negotiate with third countries. The declassification shows that data flows are among the negotiated subject matters, a controversial item in a post-Snowden world. The agreement shall contain new or enhanced regulatory disciplines as compared to
GATS based on proposals by the parties. To that end, the negotiations should aim at including inter alia regulatory disciplines concerning transparency, domestic regulation, state-owned enterprises, telecommunication services, computer related services, e-commerce, cross-border data transfers, financial services, postal and courier services, international maritime transport services, government procurement for services and subsidies.

VATMESS – EU harmonisation gone wrong for SaaS

Since 1 January 2015 online traders in the EU, selling items like “laser swords” in an app, have to apply the applicable value-added tax (VAT) rate to their purchases and submit the tax to the applicable tax authority of the responsible European member state. The new rules affect “laser swords”, document templates and SaaS but not traditional ecommerce trade of physical goods. Fortunately there is a “mini-one-stop-shop”, that is a single point of contact, subject to your registration, to declare and distribute the VAT. For your apps you have to engineer complicated solutions to determine the applicable member state of a net customer. The situation gets easier when your customer is a company with a VATIN, that is the European number of a VAT registered company.

The H word

The European Commission published a textual proposal for the TTIP talks that includes the H-Word. Previously the European Commission had argued that (legal) harmonisation was not among the objective of the agreement: “Given the efficiency of their respective systems, the intention is not to strive towards harmonisation, but to identify a number of specific issues where divergences will be addressed.” We mocked this on the FFII ACTA blog. In the Commission’s tabled text proposal it reads:
When a regulatory exchange has been initiated pursuant to Article 9 with regard
to a planned or existing regulatory act at central level, a Party may propose to the
other Party a joint examination of possible means to promote regulatory
compatibility, including through the following methods:
a) Mutual recognition of equivalence of regulatory acts, in full or in part, based on evidence that the relevant regulatory acts achieve equivalent outcomes as regards the fulfilment of the public policy goals pursued by both Parties;
b) Harmonisation of regulatory acts, or of their essential elements, through:
i.Application of existing international instruments or, if relevant instruments do not exist, cooperation between the Parties to promote the development of a new international instrument;
ii. Approximation of rules and procedures on a bilateral basis or
c) Simplification of regulatory acts in line with shared legal or administrative
principles and guidelines.

Eva Kaili raises questions about access to TTIP documents in the age of the Lisbon Treaty

Eva Kaili (S&D) from Greece asks the European Commission (under rule 130):

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and potential areas of conflict with the Lisbon Treaty

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (hereinafter TTIP) is a comprehensive free trade and investment agreement, which is currently being negotiated — behind closed doors — between the European Union and the US. In particular, all TTIP negotiations are swathed in secrecy, since the Commission is imposing the most stringent restrictions on the more important documents. In response to great pressure from MEPs, the Commission has stated that Member States and selected MEPs — those who handle the relevant issues — may have some access to the EU negotiating documents, but only in designated reading (reading rooms), and the photocopying or photographing of documents will not be permitted. The Court of Justice has already issued two important decisions — on 26 June 2014 and 3 July 2014 — essentially criticising the lack of transparency and information in the negotiations. Under Article 218 of the EU Treaty (Treaty of Lisbon) and on the basis of the precautionary principle, will the Commission say:
(a) Is the procedure being adopted in this instance in accordance with Article 218 TEU?

A license to spy – cross-border data flows in TTIP

Here is a quote from Harry van Dorenmalen of IBM Europe:
Data flows and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will be high on the agenda at the Summit. TTIP offers a unique opportunity to set the example as a 21st Century trade agreement that supports cross border data flow provisions… The position is not new and mirrors earlier attempts of IBM Europe leadership to mock the idea of a European cloud. The “demands for a safe environment for big data” are channelled via various lobby hats, including EU branded ones. Here for instance the European Services Forum (22 May):
The ESF and CSI call upon negotiators to ensure that TTIP will allow cross border data flows and dataprocessing to occur free from discriminatory terms and trade distorting conditions such as requirements to use local network infrastructure or local servers.