US-EU Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement: More Secrecy and More Duplicity Revealed
By Colin Todhunter
February 17, 2014
Current bilateral free trade agreement negotiations are shrouded in secrecy and are closed to proper public scrutiny (1,2). This is because they effectively constitute part of the ongoing corporate hijack of democracy and the further restructuring of economies in favour of elite interests (3,4,5).
We need look no futher than Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) between the US and EU. European Commissioner De Gucht claims that “there is nothing secret” about the ongoing talks. In December 2013 in a letter published in The Guardian, he argued that “there is nothing secret about this EU trade deal” and that “our negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are fully open to scrutiny” (6).
If that is the case, why then are notes of Commission meetings with business lobbyists released to Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) under the EU’s freedom of information law heavily censored?
It appears that the public is not allowed to know the positions held by the EU (unlike business interests) in these talks, who is being given access to whom and who is lobbying for what on whose behalf. High-minded platitudes referring to protecting the integrity of industry and the sensitive nature of negotiations are being used in an attempt to subvert democracy, prevent public scrutiny and secure the continued privileged positions and influence that big business holds in these talks. The arguments being used to justify the secrecy are thinly veiled disguises to try to hoodwink us into accepting the legitimacy of these negotiations.
Documents recently received by CEO show that De Gucht’s officials invited industry to submit wishlists for ‘regulatory barriers’ they would like removed during the negotiations. However, there is no way for the public to know how the EU has incorporated this into its negotiating position as all references have been removed.
Last month CEO received 44 documents (7) about the European Commission’s meetings with industry lobbyists as part of preparations for the EU-US trade talks. Most of the documents, released as a result of a freedom of information (FOI) request, are meeting reports prepared by Commission officials.