A free-trade agreement with the US has the potential to boost the European economy with billions, but this should not come at the expense of consumers or workers. Last week the sixth round of negotiation of the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) took place. We spoke to Bernd Lange, a German member of the S&D group who is the chair of the international trade committee, about the agreement and other upcoming challenges for the committee.
The negotiations for TTIP have gone on for a while now. How do you see the role of the Parliament in the negotiations?
We represent the citizens and that means that we want to strengthen their interests. The question of transparency is crucial, but there are many other issues to consider. In the end Parliament decides on the agreements. Consequently, I can only recommend the Commission to take this into consideration.
With the rejection of ACTA we have proved that the Parliament is critical in the assessment of international agreements and that we are able to form our own opinion.
TTIP is seen by many people as more as a threat than promise for Europe's workers and consumers. What are the main issues you believe Parliament should focus on in this respect?
Transparency is important to regain citizens' trust in the negotiations. The basic documents must be public.
Furthermore, we have to say clearly that we, as the European Union, have certain perceptions of consumer protection, food safety and the participation of employees we want guaranteed in our trade agreements. For me it is not about free trade, but fair trade.
Apart from TTIP, which challenges lie ahead of the international trade committee?
There are several other agreements with other states that will be negotiated. First there is Canada, but also Singapore, Vietnam, Japan and several other countries. Moreover, there will be the renewal of the agreement with Mexico and the negotiations for the multinational Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).
There is a lot of movement in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and I think we have to move more from bilateral agreements to a strengthening of multilateralism.