Data protection is a contentious issue in the discussions about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other trade or investment agreements, such as the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). Now that the European Parliament is preparing to issue a non-legislative resolution on TTIP, various parliamentary committees are giving their input to the committee in charge, the Committee on International Trade (INTA).
The committee that takes the lead as regards fundamental rights and freedoms is the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE). While everyone has one eye on the reform of data protection and one eye on TTIP developments, LIBE adopted a strong Opinion on 31 March 2015 for the European Commission to respect EU fundamental rights and freedoms, especially as regards data protection and privacy.
Led by its rapporteur, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Jan Albrecht, the LIBE Opinion refers to the need for a binding and suspensive human rights clause; the exclusion of data protection and privacy; the respect of democracy and the rule of law; the fight against mass surveillance and the need for further transparency and accountability, among other important subjects.
Concerning data protection and privacy, the LIBE Committee asks the Commission to exclude these fundamental rights from both TTIP and TiSA negotiations. In fact, the EU and the United States are discussing data transfers and data protection in other fora, namely on the Safe Harbor and the Data Protection Umbrella Agreement. In relation to TiSA, the LIBE Committee rejects the draft chapter on e-commerce proposed by the US. When addressing data flows, LIBE asks for compliance of EU adequacy rules. This point is of particular importance since the European Commission “has conceded that it cannot guarantee EU citizens’ fundamental right to privacy when their data is transferred to the US”, as the Irish Times reported in relation to the case C-362/14, Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner.
Accordingly, one of the fundamental points of the Opinion is the inclusion of an enforceable horizontal clause based on Article XIV of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to exempt “the existing and future EU legal framework for the protection of personal data from the agreement, without any condition that it must be consistent with other parts of the TTIP”.
The next round of the TTIP negotiations is going to take place in New York, between 20-24 April 2015. Now, it is crucial that the INTA committee takes the LIBE Opinion in full consideration for the Commission to follow Parliament’s advice.
TTIP Resolution: document pool (last update 08.04.2015)
TTIP: Trade agreements must not undermine EU data protection laws, say Civil Liberties MEPs (31.03.2015)
Do Facebook and the USA violate EU data protection law? The CJEU hearing in Schrems (29.03.2015)
EU cannot guarantee citizens’ privacy when transferring data to US, court told (25.03.2015)
Documents of CJEU case C-362/14, Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner (25.03.2015)
EDRi-gram: Revelations on Safe Harbour violations go to hearing at EU Court (11.03.2015)
EDRi’s red lines on TTIP (13.01.2015)
(Contribution by Maryant Fernández Pérez, EDRi)