Back in May 2015, thirteen members of the 4Liberty network from eight Central and Eastern European Member States submitted a joint open letter on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament, and national parliaments of the EU Member States.
As the European Union and the United States of America debated over cutting tariffs and reducing regulatory barriers to trade and made arrangements for the tenth round of negotiations on this comprehensive free trade and investment treaty, think tanks called upon policy makers to ground their decisions in rigorous research-based economic evidence and to embrace the agreement.
The network reminded that in democracies it is not countries or governments that trade with each other. It is people – consumers and companies – whose inventions and products span national borders. It is people – consumers and entrepreneurs – who are the primary actors and benefactors of free trade. They emphasized that the role of governments was not to put restraints on cooperation but to facilitate it.
Following fifteen rounds of negotiations on the issue, bilateral talks have been at a standstill since the change of U.S. Administration in 2016. Today, the future of TTIP remains unclear, yet Europe continues to explore the rationale for a further deepening of the transatlantic trade and investment relationship. Advisory groups continue their work towards freer trade and investment while, commendably, the European Commission and the Parliament further explore the arguments expressed by different stakeholders.
The joint petition submitted by the 4Liberty network has recently been re-examined by the Committee on Petitions. Following its discussion, the committee arrived at a decision to address a letter to the national Parliaments of all Member States, giving information about the European Parliament’s position on the conclusion of TTIP, as well as to send a letter to the Council of the European Union asking for transparency on the negotiation process of trade agreements.
A careful re-examination of the petition over these past two years reflects the role that an organised civil society voice can play in EU policy- and decision-making processes. It also recognises the network as an authoritative source of expertise on EU policy issues.