One root of public discontent with recent trade deals like CETA, TTIP and TiSA is that they touch upon issues that go far beyond tariffs and quotas. Some of these issues such as regulatory cooperation, rules on domestic regulations, data flows or substantive intellectual property rights protections, risk undermining well established consumer protections in the EU if not handled carefully. Moreover, these trade agreements do not give the impression to EU citizens that they are crafted to their benefit. One of the reasons for this is that trade deals do not have consumer protection as an overarching objective. Any EU trade agreement should bring benefits to consumers while ensuring the highest levels of protection. This could be detailed in a consumer specific chapter.
The EU and regulators of its partners should work together to better protect consumers and facilitate their lives. This can include issues such as e-commerce, telecoms, product safety, food safety, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, antimicrobial resistance, financial services, transport, chemicals and enforcement of consumer law. Such cooperation should be about exchanging information and best practices outside of technical trade talks. Cooperation between regulators should not be converted into cooperation on regulations i.e. on law-making, and should always uphold European standards of consumer protection. Regulatory cooperation between two or several partners outside of trade agreements could be more efficient to protect consumers while at the same time tackling impediments to trade.
These two separate processes must go along with a drastic change: any regulatory dialogue and trade negotiation has to be developed in a manner that is transparent, inclusive and open to external contributions. Legislators, stakeholders and citizens must be able to monitor what is on the table and provide input. This ought to be a joint effort, meaning that all European institutions, including the Council, have to change their old habits.
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