The European Commission and governments involved in trade deal talks must do more to improve transparency regarding the ongoing negotiations. Transparency must start with the mandate or negotiations directives guiding the negotiations.
After coming under criticism for refusing to reveal what was being negotiated under TTIP, including by the European Ombudsman, the European Commission disclosed some documents. However, these papers have been frequently out of date by the time they are released. US negotiators tend to disclose almost nothing at all. In the case of TTIP, even members of national parliaments had only limited and strictly restricted access to so-called consolidated negotiating texts in special reading rooms.
In the case of the EU’s Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement with Canada (CETA), almost twenty percent of the text was changed during this formal process, without those changes being made public.
Prior to the conclusion of the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement at the political level on 28 June 2019, little information was available on the website of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade concerning the EU’s proposed texts. After Greenpeace and other NGOs leaked negotiating
texts in 2017, the availability of draft documents improved slightly. Nevertheless, the quantity and quality of publicly available information remains poor until the political conclusion and is even one year after this agreement not complete.
Consultations with civil society and stakeholder meetings are little more than content-free formalities.
Any improvement in transparency must fulfill at least the following principles: greater public access to the negotiations directives (mandates) and the negotiating documents; more active disclosure of documents; more balanced and transparent public participation throughout the negotiating process.