EU Affairs

TTIP must comply with EU data-protection and human-rights laws, says EP

European ParliamentBrussels, 01/04/2015. Any future TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) agreement needs to be clear that it “fully exempts the existing and future EU legal framework on the protection of personal data from the agreement”, said the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee yesterday.

The committee’s statement, which aimed to address several fundamental-rights concerns, now goes forward to the Parliament’s International Trade committee, which will vote on the institution’s recommendations to the European Commission (to influence the Commission’s position in TTIP negotiations in May). Voting was 41 in favour, 10 against and 2 abstentions.

“The most important decision of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee on TTIP is that the agreement needs to foresee a horizontal exception for EU data-protection law”, said Jan Philipp Albrecht, vice-chair of the Civil Liberties committee and rapporteur for TTIP.

Committee members pointed out that Parliament’s consent to the final TTIP agreement would be problematic while blanket mass-surveillance of European citizens’ data continues, and until an adequate solution is found for EU data-privacy rights.

MEPs want the Commission to reject the draft chapter on e-commerce proposed by the US in the seventh TTIP negotiation round, if it contains similar conditions to the US draft chapter on e-commerce in the TiSA negotiations (because this text “would undermine EU rules and safeguards for the transfer of personal data to third countries”.

The committee also expects the Commission to ensure that the TTIP agreement guarantees full respect for EU fundamental rights, by including “a legally binding and suspensive human rights clause” as part of any EU trade agreements with third countries.

On the ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement) issue, any agreement should not prevent equal access to justice or undermine democracy, MEPs say. A successful TTIP agreement will need to ensure that decisions on legal conflicts about fundamental rights “are only made by competent ordinary courts”.

Finally, MEPs reiterated the need for transparency and accountability in the TTIP negotiations throughout.

© Philip Hunt, 2015.