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03 July 2014
EU-US trade deal must be approved by national parliaments
A letter addressed to Trade Commissioner Karen De Gucht and signed by the chairs of relevant committees in national parliaments has called for the EU-US deal to be a “mixed” agreement, which would require ratification at national level.
16 EU countries have signed the letter, which includes the chairpersons of European affairs committees from the United Kingdom, Poland, the Netherlands, France and Germany to name a few. It has also referenced the EU-Canada trade agreement CETA, due for completion last October, but which has stalled due to concerns over investor protection and intellectual property rights. The letter, dated June 25 reads:
‘…signatories to this letter believe that free trade agreements should be considered as mixed agreements, since they contain provisions that concern policy areas which are within the competences of the member states. For CETA, as well as TTIP (as well as can be foreseen at this stage), this is the case for certain elements of policy areas such as services, transport and investor protection. In the case of a mixed status, all Member-States, namely through their national Parliaments, have to ratify the agreement.’
The letter reflects the continuing tug-of-war between the Commission and representatives of Member States over where competences lie in relating to international trade agreements. Under the Lisbon Treaty new powers were provided to the Commission to negotiate trade deals, but there is disagreement with Member States as to how comprehensive and far-reaching those powers are.
The wide and varied scope of TTIP, as well as the secrecy surrounding the deal has prompted concerns that Member States’ national rule-making processes could be affected, despite having little input into the negotiation process itself.
EU Observer reports that De Gucht hopes to clarify the legal boundaries of trade policy under Lisbon through an opinion from the European Court of Justice:
"Such a move would be in the utmost interest of all national and EU institutions to receive legal clarity for the ratification process for all EU trade agreements in the future," EU Trade spokesman John Clancy told EUobserver. He added that De Gucht would give the letter "his highest attention and reply soon”.
The recent EU-South Korea agreement has been classified as “mixed”, requiring national ratification. TTIP negotiating teams have expressed their hope to finalise the deal by late 2015, though many feel given the growing controversy, this may prove difficult. Ratification by national parliaments is likely to significantly delay this deadline further.