BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union decided on Thursday to make public its negotiating mandate for a free trade deal with the United States in a bid to quell growing opposition to the proposed accord.
The 18-page document, which had been widely leaked, says what cannot be included in a trade deal, such as audiovisual services, and what the European Commission should push for, such as an opening up of U.S. public tenders to EU companies.
The United States and the EU want to seal a free trade deal encompassing half the world’s economic output, which advocates say could bring economic gains of around $100 billion a year for both sides.
However, environmentalists and consumer groups have criticized it as a sellout to big business. They say it threatens to undermine EU standards, particularly on food and agriculture.
They and EU lawmakers have also complained about a lack of transparency. Even the European Commission, which handles negotiations on behalf of the EU states, has said it would better to prove it has nothing to hide.
The European Council, the grouping of the 28 member states, said on Thursday it had decided to declassify the negotiating directives following a proposal by Italy, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said in a statement that he was delighted with the decision.
He said it allowed everyone to see the kind of deal the European Union wanted: boosting growth and jobs while preserving high levels of protection for the environment, health, safety, consumers and data privacy.
The mandate also sets out a plan to include Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions, allowing companies to take cross-border legal action against governments.
Critics, which now include Germany, say it gives multinationals too much power and could undermine laws on labor, the environment or food standards.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Mark Trevelyan