The European Union’s new Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, made a strong case in support of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) at a public conference in the European Parliament on Wednesday titled "TTIP and Consumers: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."
Playing off the event’s name, Malmström’s first major speech on the topic emphasized the “good” aspects of the trade agreement which she insisted would be beneficial to consumers in terms of lowering prices, widening choice and creating high quality jobs. The TTIP “cannot be bad or ugly,” she said.
Accordingly, while Malmström urged negotiators to be “ambitious” in knocking down trade barriers, she noted that they must also act with caution to ensure the deal in no way undermines the ability of governments to protect people from safety, environmental or financial risks or to provide public services like education or health.
Caution in the trade talks, Malmström said, means focusing “on those areas where EU and US regulations follow similar standards” – for example, in car safety, factory inspections for pharmaceuticals and traceability of medical devices. She added that caution in this regard also means “that we must not change our laws in areas where they are just too different – like genetically modified food or hormone beef.”
Malmström refused to speculate on plans for the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause which has been a lightning rod for opponents of the deal, saying only that the Commission is still processing the feedback from a public consultation held earlier this year.
At the conference, Commission officials also announced the launch of a welcome new initiative to address public concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the negotiations. “We will make sure that everybody can follow what interests represented when meeting Commissioners,“ said Vice-President Frans Timmermans.
On Friday, Malmström will be briefly meeting U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman for the first time in order to chart a path forward for the talks.