06:48 GMT +319 October 2017
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    Dressed-up protesters take part in a rally against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a massive free-trade accord being negotiated by the European Union and the United States, on October 10, 2015 in Amsterdam.

    Opposite of Transparency: Germany's TTIP Room 'Smacks of Totalitarianism'

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    With concerns over the controversial TTIP trade deal between the EU and US, a select number of German MPs have been granted limited access to view the agreement in its current form. Despite this initiative, lawmaker Katja Kipping has raised serious concerns about the transparency of the deal.

    While some have promoted the TTIP reading room as a win for transparency, Katja Kipping from Germany's Left Party, has shared the many restrictions placed on lawmakers hoping to gain a better grasp of the finer deals of the deal.

    In the plan, announced by German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, MPs must register to access the reading room and are only allowed to spend two hours reading the documents, while mobile phones and other electronic devices must be stored away in a secure locker.

    The TTIP document is available on a computer screen that isn't connected to the Internet, and while lawmakers can make notes, they cannot copy any quotes from the consolidated texts and they cannot share the details of the agreement in public or in parliament.

    "Even the registration procedure for the reading room speaks volumes. Once I'd registered, I was sent the instructions on how to use the room," Kipping wrote in a review of her reading room experience.

    "The first thing that I noticed was that the terms and conditions had already been the subject of negotiations between the European Commission and the USA. Get your head round that: TTIP isn't even signed yet, and already individual countries have lost the right to decide who gets to read the texts, and on what terms."

    MPs Not Allowed Expert Assistance

    Kipping also took exception to an MPs' rulebook that stated being granted access to the texts was an example of "an exceptional degree of trust."

    "Now I'd always thought that elected MPs have a right to information. Yet the TTIP negotiators (and who gave them their legitimacy?) reckon they are GRANTING us access out of the goodness of their hearts. Access as a sign of exceptional trust. Whoever wrote that — did they really think that we MPs would feel flattered? To me it smacks more of totalitarianism. 'Granting access' and 'extending trust' is not the language you use if you really believe in democracy."

    To make the complexities of the deal more difficult, Kipping said MPs weren't allowed to bring in experts help deconstruct the technical jargon associated with the text, which was supplied in English only. 

    "We are not even allowed to take security-cleared specialists with us into the reading room. As for members of the public, who will ultimately have to bear the brunt of TTIP, they are to have no access whatsoever to the secret text. Not what transparency looks like in my book," she wrote.

    Kipping: Viewing Documents Didn't Change my Mind

    Proponents of the TTIP say that member states will experience an economic boost and increased trade, while many small and medium-sized businesses would greatly benefit from the agreement, which aims to slash trade barriers between the US and EU.

    However, while prevented from sharing what she read, Kipping said she could reveal what she didn't read, and stated that there was "nothing that even vaguely supported" such claims.

    "The two hours I had in the reading room were obviously not enough to read all the documents. Yet afterwards, I realized that nothing I had read would make me rethink any of my previous criticisms of TTIP," she wrote.

    "It is revealing in itself that the Ministry for Economic Affairs is prepared to go to such lengths in order to keep the text of TTIP under wraps.

    "And they have every reason for doing so. Anyone who was going into these negotiations to enhance environmental protection, consumer protection and labor standards would have nothing to fear from transparency.

    "Anyone who's engaged in selling out democracy, on the other hand, is obviously going to want to avoid public scrutiny. If Sigmar Gabriel and the negotiators are really so convinced of the benefits of TTIP, why don't they just make the text available to everyone online?"

    Related:

    German Govt. Offers Politicians Opportunity to Peruse Secret TTIP Documents
    EU Lawmakers Finally Given Access to Restricted TTIP Documents
    New Study Unable to Outline Benefits of TTIP
    Lobbyists Love TTIP: Big Business Already Exploiting New Trade Deal
    Tags:
    TTIP, trade deal, MP, lawmakers, transparency, criticism, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Sigmar Gabriel, Germany, Europe
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