France vows to uphold regulation in EU-US trade talks

Transatlantic partnership – Hearing of Mme Fleur Pellerin, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, before the National Assembly Economic Affairs Committee (excerpts)

Paris, 2 July 2014

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This strategy must, of course, be coordinated with the negotiations being conducted by the European Commission on the economic partnership agreements. I won’t go back over the subject of the transatlantic partnership in detail here, but I’ll be able to answer your questions if you wish. Rest assured that I intend to be insistent, in all the negotiations conducted by the Commission on the European Union’s behalf, that France’s offensive interests and the “red lines” identified for defending our collective preferences, our right to regulate and the broadcasting sector be upheld. I’ve had the opportunity to say this to European Commissioner Karel De Gucht several times; I’ll also say it to his successor when he or she has been appointed. Moreover, the subject of transparency with regard to members of parliament and the public is essential for me. I’ve personally taken initiatives for the publication of the negotiation mandates and the various documents enabling the rounds of talks to be reported.

A lot of attention is legitimately being paid to the TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership], but we shouldn’t forget the dozen agreements under more or less advanced negotiation with key partners like Canada, Japan and certain South-East Asian countries. We must closely follow sectoral agreements on environmental goods and services. Finally, I’ll be very mindful of the rules of world trade: they include the notion of reciprocity, trade defence instruments, the fight against counterfeiting and the protection of geographical indications. (…)

I’d just like to mention the issue of health, phytosanitary and environmental standards. In terms of food, there will be no lowest bidder when it comes to the signing of this treaty, if it is to be signed. In the Commission’s negotiation mandate, it was clearly indicated that we have a number of red lines, collective preferences, on which we won’t compromise. Today, Commissioner De Gucht – he’s also repeated this himself – has no mandate to introduce GMOs, chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef into Europe. These subjects don’t enter the negotiation.

Dispute resolution is also an issue we must emphasize. France wasn’t demanding this, but you need to know France already has this type of mechanism, along with about 90 countries. We have investment protection agreements with many countries, mostly developing countries. These dispute resolution mechanisms are intended to protect our companies when they’re at risk of being expropriated. There’s a very limited number of cases of this, and it doesn’t prevent a state from legislating. Agreements provide for ad-hoc dispute resolution bodies when the commercial courts in the country we’ve signed contracts with don’t offer procedural safeguards enabling the interests of our economic players to be protected. That’s why we create this type of mechanism. It’s true this is more rarely provided for with OECD countries, but we considered this wasn’t an obstacle to signing the negotiation mandate. Even though France wasn’t demanding this type of mechanism in the transatlantic partnership, it didn’t wish to issue a veto on this point.

What stage are we at today? Because this was raising a lot of concerns or questions, France, along with Germany, asked to suspend the negotiations on this in March in order to begin a public consultation. This consultation will be completed in a few days’ time. The Commission will have to summarize it and take it into account. Several thousand contributions have been made known to the Commission; it’s a subject that does arouse a lot of interest. (…) I’ll pay very special attention to ensuring that states’ sovereignty and ability to regulate are maintained – in other words, that our ability to take legislative or regulatory decisions, without being prosecuted by private companies, is maintained. That really is the main goal we’re pursuing. So it’s possible to have a mechanism that protects states’ right to regulate. (…)./.

Published on 22/07/2014

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