One of the most ambitious bilateral trade agreements in history – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which is currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States – may be concluded by the end of 2016. The agreement aims at removing regulatory barriers which restrict the promotion of trade and multilateral economic growth. Both the European Union and the United States are expected to benefit from significant economic gains as a result of the free-trade agreement, such as important GDP growth, facilitation of investments and the creation of new business opportunities as well as of new jobs.
Nevertheless, these arguments do not seem convincing to many TTIP opponents. According to numerous studies, TTIP could lead to the downgrading of any standards identified as “barriers” to trade. Therefore, the agreement could undermine existing European regulations and levels of protection in areas such as food safety, the environment, public health, personal privacy, public services and labour rights. Amongst the greatest threats posed by TTIP is that, through its Investor State Dispute Settlement System, it seeks to grant transnational corporations an unprecedented power to sue individual governments for losses resulting from adopting laws which raise social or environmental standards.
The lack of transparency during the negotiations reduces the capacity of citizens to estimate the potential impact of the agreement. Recently released by the NGO Greenpeace (Netherlands), a series of secret TTIP negotiation documents seem to justify the fears of many TTIP opponents.
The Parliamentary Assembly should examine whether the current agreement negotiation process corresponds to democratic practices and principles of good governance, as well as the possible lowering of European social, health and environmental standards resulting from what is currently known of negotiation documents.