Last week I wrote that the trade agreement with Singapore will be secret until it enters into force. The statement was based on an email from EU Trade Spokesperson John Clancy. It turns out this is not correct, the text will be published before the summer.
When I first contacted Mr Clancy, the FFII email server was down. I used a personal email address. I asked:
“On 16 December the EU and Singapore completed final negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the European Union and Singapore. I can not find the text of the FTA on the Commission’s website. Did the Commission publish the text, could I receive the text?”
Mr Clancy answered:
“Political negotiations were completed in December 2012 between the Commissioner and the Singapore Minister – the ‘handshake’ moment if you will.
However, there is between 18 months and 2 years of European institutional and democratic process to go through (from translating all the texts into all official EU languages, ‘legal scrubbing’ (checking of the texts by lawyer/linguists), signature of the Council (i.e. the Member States) before the agreed text can go before the European Parliament for a final ‘Yes/No’ vote. Only if there is a positive ‘yes’ vote by the EP does the agreement come into force and the text becomes ‘legal’ and is published.
We only wish – here at the Commission – that the time period could be shorter but it is out of our hands I am afraid.
So, unfortunately the text is not available yet.”
Today I had a phone call with Mr Clancy. He said that he had thought I was an ordinary citizen. So he had just given me a “snap explanation”, he summarized a complex process. If he would have known I was involved with an organisation, he would have been more accurate.
As I had simply asked whether I could receive the text, a correct answer could have been: “After legal verification we will publish the text on the website.”
Mr Clancy today said that the text will be published before the summer. I promised to publish his more accurate answer:
“Following our telephone conversation earlier today, please allow me to clarify my earlier email to you. The negotiations for the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement were completed in December 2012 in Singapore. This draft text is now progressing through the EU institutional process. This means that the draft text is currently undergoing legal checks or ‘legal scrubbing’ by the legal teams from both sides. When this is completed, the draft text will be initialled after which we intend to rapidly publish the text of the draft agreement on the DG trade website. The draft text will then be translated into all EU languages. The next step in the process is the formal European Commission endorsement of the draft agreement. Afterwards, the Council of the EU will be formally asked to approve the agreement. Finally, the draft text will then be voted upon by Members of the European Parliament in Plenary Session at a time of their choosing. Only if there is a ‘positive vote’ by the European Parliament does the text become ‘legal’ and valid. The Free Trade Agreement then enters into force after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. It was this formal publication of the final text I had in mind when we had initially been in contact. But as mentioned, the draft text will be made publicly available much earlier.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this clarification to your organisation.”