This briefing summarizes a number of recent developments relating to negotiations between the European Union (the EU) and the United States (the US) on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The eighth round of these negotiations will take place in Brussels from February 2 to 6, 2015.

In response to concerns about transparency on TTIP negotiations, on November 25, 2014, the European Commission (the Commission)published a Communication describing initiatives to increase transparency. Separately, the Commission published two documents relating to the chemical sector. On December 8, 2014, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström met with US Trade Representative Michael Froman in Washington D.C. to discuss the state of play.

Stocktaking meeting in Washington

During their December 8 meeting, Mrs Malmström and Mr Fromanreviewed all areas covered by the TTIP negotiations and agreed a number of practical steps to prepare the next round of talks, which are scheduled to take place in Brussels during the week of February 2 to 6, 2015. These include meetings in January to prepare the February round.

At the press conference that followed the meeting between the EU and US Trade representatives, Mrs Malmström revealed that the Commission’s report on the outcome of the consultation on Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) will be probably published at the beginning of next year.

The EU Trade Commissioner also pointed out that, under the new Commission, discussions on TTIP would be now more inclusive, involving all Commissioners with foreign and economic-policy related portfolios.

During her two-day visit to Washington D.C., on December 9, 2014, Commissioner Malmström also met a number of Members of the US Congress, as well as consumer, labour union and business representatives.

Transparency in TTIP negotiations

On November 25, 2014, the Commission adopted a Communication outlining actions for more transparency in TTIP negotiations. These include the following:

  • Making public all EU negotiating texts that the Commission shares with Member States and the EU Parliament.
  • Providing broad access to TTIP documents to all Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) by extending the use of a ‘reading room’ to those MEPs who otherwise had no access to restricted documents.
  • Classifying fewer TTIP negotiating documents as “EU restricted”, making them more easily accessible to MEPs outside the reading room.
  • Publishing and updating on a regular basis a list of TTIP documents shared with the European Parliament and Council.
  • Reporting more extensively on the outcome of negotiating rounds.
  • Increasing engagement with the public, both at EU and national level.

The Commission also committed to publish information about who meets its political leaders and senior officials. From December 1, 2014, the Commission will, within two weeks of each meeting, publish on its website the dates, locations and the names of the organizations and self-employed individuals who attended the meetings and the topics of discussion of its bilateral meetings.

Chemicals in TTIP

Various stakeholders have raised concerns about possible negative effects of TTIP on the implementation of existing EU regulations, as well as on future legislative initiatives. With regard to chemicals, stakeholders are concerned that the inclusion of chemicals-related disciplines in TTIP would endanger the high level of environmental and health standards achieved in the EU.

In order to address such concerns, on November 21, 2014, the Commission published two "non-papers" on chemicals, which develop ideas for possible cooperation between the relevant regulators on both sides of the Atlantic. These documents are not legal texts, but are intended for discussion. As a result, they do not constitute any formal commitment at the current stage of the negotiations.

In the first paper, the Commission published a draft outline of basic elements of TTIP provisions applicable to the chemicals sector. The possible fields of cooperation suggested by the Commission in this document include:

  • prioritization of substances for assessment (mutual consultation upon request when setting or reviewing criteria for defining priority substances or when updating priority lists);
  • alignment in the classification and labelling of chemical products in accordance with the UN Global Harmonised Systems (GHS) of classification of substances; and
  • publication of regulatory plans (regulatory activities concerned covered at both EU and Member States, Federal and State level under defined mechanisms).

The second paper provides a more detailed description of different regulatory processes in the EU under the REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) and CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Substances and Mixture) Regulations. It aims at examining possibilities for cooperation with US authorities, while fully respecting the procedures and timelines set by the applicable EU legislation. For instance, in relation to the revision process of substances included in the Community Rolling Action Plan (CoRAP), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) could consult with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assess whether there may be prospects to share information or coordinate certain existing or planned criteria (i.e. hazard related selection criteria, exposure related selection criteria, risk related selection criteria). With regard to classification of substances, the ECHA could also involve US authorities on the assessment of proposals submitted in ECHA’s public ‘Registry of Intent’. The EU now expects the US to provide similar proposals for involving the EU side in US proceedings.