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EU regions eager to exploit TTIP potential but urge for guarantees on public services and protection standards

Commissioner Malmström debated challenges and opportunities with local leaders and reassures their voice will be taken into account within negotiations

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has assessed the local and regional impact of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) presented in an opinion drafted by Markus Töns (DE/PES), Member of the North Rhine-Westphalia Landtag. Local and regional leaders adopted the opinion and shared their concerns with Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström during the CoRs' plenary yesterday. Including the Committee in the advisory group on the TTIP negotiations, preserving local management of services such as water and energy provision, waste disposal, public transport and healthcare are among their key priorities, together with the call for special arrangements banning the import of agricultural products that do not comply with the EU rules.

Whilst removing obstacles to free trade between the US and EU can foster growth and job creation, Europe's regions and cities argue that the opening of the EU market to competition should not happen to the detriment of the local and regional self-government principle enshrined in the EU Treaties. Given that TTIP may require the approval of regional parliaments, and in the light of its substantial regional and local dimension, the CoR urges the European Commission to include the Committee in the advisory group as is the case for civil society representatives.

"TTIP must not lead to a democratic deficit by ignoring the voice of regions and cities", pointed out Mr. Töns, who also stressed that, "Local and regional representatives should therefore be involved in all the next steps of the negotiation and the Committee of the Regions will be a key partner in this process". The role of the CoR - as a link to local communities - was underlined by Commissioner Malmström who said, "What you, in the Committee of the Regions, say here in Brussels is based on a deep understanding of people in your region. And when you speak about European policy at home, you can connect our work to their lives like no other part of the EU system. That’s why your role in the public discussion about this negotiation is so important."

The CoR insists that the EU should preserve adequate regulatory room for manoeuvre, especially when it comes to setting protection standards and services of general interest. To this end, the Committee calls on the Commission to ensure that public services subject to specific regulatory regimes or characterised by specific obligations connected with the general interest – such as water and energy provision, waste and sewage disposal, emergency services, public health and social services, public transport, housing, urban planning measures and urban development - can benefit from a clear horizontal exemption from TTIP's liberalisation. The CoR also insists that the standard-setting aspects of European public procurement law must not be challenged, especially when applied in a regional and local context.

Besides public services, agriculture is another area of concern for the CoR, which calls for a guarantee that special arrangements are planned for the agricultural sector banning the import of certain products into the EU. On-going negotiations should devote a specific chapter to geographical indications (GIs) in order to facilitate a system of mutual recognition of EU and US designations, as well as rules providing a reasonable level of protection to GIs in both jurisdictions through specific indication of the generic use of a product name and/or its place of production.

The opinion also underlines that Member States and local and regional authorities must still be able to take measures to protect and promote the cultural diversity, freedom and pluralism of the media in order to meet the democratic, social and cultural needs of each society, irrespective of which technology or distribution platform is used.

Finally, while welcoming the fact that the European Commission has launched a public consultation on the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, the CoR warns that such mechanisms governing investor-state relations between the EU and the USA must not undermine the laws of the Member States nor circumvent the ordinary courts.

For more information:

- CoR opinion on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

- Commissioner Malmström full speech


Pierluigi Boda
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