Many media outlets are reporting this morning about supposed leaks from our negotiations with the United States on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). As there seems to be quite a number of misconceptions floating around, a few things might be worth pointing out.
First of all, and contrary to what many seem to believe, so-called "consolidated texts" in a trade negotiation are not the same thing as an outcome. They reflect each side's negotiating position, nothing else. And it shouldn't come as a surprise that there are areas where the EU and the US have different views. As I pointed out on this blog last week - there are areas in the TTIP negotiations where we have come a long way, but in others we are simply not in agreement.
It is only normal that both parties in a negotiation want to achieve as many of their own objectives as possible. That does not mean that the other side gives in to those demands. That does not mean that the parties will meet halfway. In areas where we are too far apart in a negotiation, we simply will not agree. In that sense, many of today's alarmist headlines are a storm in a teacup.
In the past year, the European Commission has opened up the negotiations to make our positions on all matters in the negotiations public. After each negotiating round, we publish round reports as well as our position papers and textual proposals. So the positions of the EU are well-known and nothing new.
Take our proposal for regulatory coherence, for example. Our latest proposal - tabled during the February round and made public shortly thereafter - includes references to the precautionary principle, and points out our well-established public consultation procedures that are open to all stakeholders.
And no, the EU industry does not have greater access to EU negotiating positions than other stakeholders. We take into account submissions by industry, but exactly the same applies to submissions by trade unions, consumer groups or health or environmental organisations - all of which are represented in the advisory group that regularly meets our negotiating team.
It begs to be said, again and again: No EU trade agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment. Trade agreements will not change our laws on GMOs, or how to produce safe beef, or how to protect the environment.
Any EU trade deal can only change regulation by making it stronger. We might agree with a partner that rules on the safety of medicines would be tougher than before, for example, but never weaker. No trade deal will limit our ability to make new rules to protect our citizens or environment in the future.
I am simply not in the business of lowering standards. I have a clear negotiating mandate for the negotiations given to the Commission by 28 EU governments, that clearly spells out what a successful agreement has to look like, and what our non-negotiable red lines are. And as always, the end result of a negotiation would have to be cleared by those 28 Member States and the European Parliament before becoming reality.