Contacts with the tobacco industry re EU trade negotiations

Olivier Hoedeman made this access to documents request to Trade

The request was partially successful.

From: Olivier Hoedeman

Dear DG Trade,

Under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties, as developed in Regulation 1049/2001, I am requesting the following documents:

- a list of meetings between DG Trade officials and representatives of the tobacco industry (including tobacco companies and tobacco industry groups, but also lobby consultancies, law firms and others working for tobacco industry clients or otherwise representing the tobacco industry) in the period between January 1st 2014 and today;

- minutes and other reports of these meetings;

- all correspondence (including emails) between DG Trade officials and representatives of the tobacco industry (including tobacco companies and tobacco industry groups, but also lobby consultancies, law firms and others working for tobacco industry clients or otherwise representing the tobacco industry) between January 1st 2014 and today.

Yours faithfully,

Olivier Hoedeman
on behalf of Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
Rue d'Edimbourg 26,
1050 Brussels, Belgium

EU Transparency Register ID Number: 5353162366-85

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Trade

Dear Sir,

Thank you for your e-mail dated 13/03/2015. We hereby acknowledge the receipt of your application for access to documents, which was registered on 16/03/2015 under reference number GestDem 2015/1635.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, your application will be handled within 15 working days. This time limit will expire on 09/04/2015. In case this time limit needs to be extended, you will be informed in due course.

You have lodged your application via the AsktheEU.org website. Please note that this is a private website which has no link with any institution of the European Union. Therefore the European Commission cannot be held accountable for any technical issues or problems linked to the use of this system.

Yours faithfully,
DG TRADE

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Trade

Dear Mr Hoedeman,

We refer to your request for access to documents, registered on 16/03/2015 under the above mentioned reference number.

Your application is currently being handled. However, partly due to the holiday period, we were not in a position to complete the handling of your application within the time limit of 15 working days, which expires today.
An extended time limit is needed. Therefore, we have to extend the time limit with 15 working days in accordance with Article 7(3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to documents. The new time limit expires on 30/04/2015.

We apologise for this delay and for any inconvenience this may cause.

Yours faithfully,
DG TRADE

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From: Olivier Hoedeman

Dear DG Trade,

on April 9th you informed me that there would be a three week delay in responding to my request for access to documents on Commission contacts with the tobacco industry regarding EU trade negotiations (including TTIP). The new deadline of April 30th has passed more than a week ago and I have not received any response.

Response to my request (submitted March 13th) is now long overdue. When can I expect the documents to be released?

Yours faithfully,

Olivier Hoedeman
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)

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Trade

Dear Mr Hoedeman,

We do apologize for our late reaction on this file (reference 2015/1635). Our reply to you is ready and it will be put to circulation for signature on Monday, however due to the holiday of 14-15 May, we might only be able to send it to you the week after.

We currently have a very large number of requests ongoing and we are doing our utmost to keep up with this work.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Best regards,
DG Trade

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From: Olivier Hoedeman

Dear DG Trade,

in your message dated 8th May you announced that the reply to my FOI request was going to be further delayed and would be sent to me in the week of 18-22 May. We are now approaching the end of May. Could you inform me of the reasons for the additional delays and indicate when the response will reach me?

Yours faithfully,

Olivier Hoedeman

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Trade

Dear Mr Hoedeman,

It is true that your reply was already circulating for the final signature when we discovered new documents pertaining to your request in the possession of a geographical unit. We now need to assess the new material and therefore need a few more days to finalize the reply. Unfortunately, we cannot promise an exact date but rest assured that we are working on your request and you will have your reply soon.

We apologize for this delay and thank you again for your understanding and patience.

Best regards,
DG Trade

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From: Olivier Hoedeman

Dear DG Trade,

thank you for the update. It is interesting that new documents were discovered in the possession of a geographical unit, but the prospect of a further delay for an undefined period of time is not at all appealing. With the summer break approaching I fear that the discovery of these new documents might lead to a very lengthy delay.

I would therefore appreciate if you could as soon as possible send me the response that was already finalised and then handle the new documents in a separate response at a (hopefully not too much) later stage.

Yours faithfully,

Olivier Hoedeman
on behalf of Corporate Europe Observatory

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Trade

Dear Mr Hoedeman,

The new documents are only a few and they have now been assessed. The revised reply is circulating and hopefully reaching you by the end of the week, but most likely early next week.

Best,
DG Trade

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Trade


Attachment FINAL Version reply.pdf
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Attachment Annex1.pdf
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Attachment Annex2.pdf
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This letter is also sent out by registered mail with acknowledgment of
receipt.

 

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From: Olivier Hoedeman

Dear DG Trade,

for your information, I have submitted a confirmatory application regarding this access-to-documents request (see below)

Yours faithfully,

Olivier Hoedeman

Brussels, 29 June 2015

Dear Secretary-General,

regarding my application to access to documents (Ref GestDem No 2015/1635), I would herewith like to make a confirmatory application, asking the Commission to review its response and the position taken.

On March 13 2015 I submitted a request for:
- a list of meetings between DG Trade officials and representatives of the tobacco industry (including tobacco companies and tobacco industry groups, but also lobby consultancies, law firms and others working for tobacco industry clients or otherwise representing the tobacco industry) in the period between January 1st 2014 and today;
- minutes and other reports of these meetings;
- all correspondence (including emails) between DG Trade officials and representatives of the tobacco industry (including tobacco companies and tobacco industry groups, but also lobby consultancies, law firms and others working for tobacco industry clients or otherwise representing the tobacco industry) between January 1st 2014 and today.

On June 12 DG Trade sent me a response and two documents (both concerning Japan Tobacco International), of which parts of the text were removed. Four other documents were mentioned in the response (concerning BAT and Philip Morris), but access to these documents was refused altogether. We would like the Commission to review these decisions and allow full access to all of these documents.

We would like to remind that the EU is a signatory to the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which recognises the fundamental and irreconcilable conflict of interest between the tobacco industry and public health policy-making. The FCTC and its accompanying guidelines oblige governments to limit interactions with the tobacco industry to a minimum and to ensure full transparency of those interactions that occur. There is no reason why this should not apply to the EU´s international trade policy, which presumably also has the objective to protect public health.

For four documents (concerning BAT and Philip Morris) access was refused because they – according to DG Trade - contain elements relative to the tactical approach in the ongoing negotiations with Japan”, which “would undermine the margin of manoeuvre of the Commission in the FTA negotiations”, weaken the EU position and complicate the negotiations. We find it astonishing that the Commission is sharing such information with tobacco corporations, whereas there is currently no specific information in the public domain about the Commission's stance on tobacco products in the FTA negotiations. The fact that the Commission shares this information with tobacco companies leaves the impression that it is promoting the interests of these companies in the FTA talks.

DG Trade also argues that disclosure of the documents would “harm the relations that these companies have with the Japanese government”. Also these remarks appear to indicate that DG Trade works to promote market expansion for tobacco companies and thus treats the tobacco industry as any other sector of industry (rather than a sector producing a deadly product and for which a special set of UN rules apply).

Finally, the Commission argues that disclosure of the documents “would seriously undermine the institution's decision-making process” as this could “impact on decisions still to be taken by the EU regarding future demarches by giving elements of the Commission's assessment of the situation”. Disclosure, DG Trade argues, “would prejudice the institution's margin of manoeuvre” and “severely reduce its capacity to contribute to reaching its objectives”. It is remarkable that the Commission fears such far-reaching impacts from the disclosure of correspondence and minutes of meetings with tobacco corporations (a specific sector of industry with which contacts according to the FCTC should be restricted to a minimum).

There is a clear overriding public interest in the disclosure of the documents, including for the following reasons:
as a signatory the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control the Commission should provide full transparency around its contacts with tobacco industry representatives, which logically includes releasing correspondence and minutes of meetings.
the disclosure of the documents is necessary to enable the public to scrutinise the nature of the relations between DG Trade and the tobacco industry.
the disclosure of the documents is necessary to enable the public to assess the extent to which the EU-Japan FTA (and TTIP) poses a risk to tobacco control policies. Are EU trade negotiators for example aiming to influence tobacco control regulations in Japan, following discussions they have had with the tobacco industry? Are EU trade negotiators promoting the inclusion of the controversial investor-to-state dispute settlement in the EU-Japan FTA talks, following discussions they have had with the tobacco industry?

In the two documents that were partially released, the names of the Commission staff members and representatives of Japan International Tobacco (JTI) were removed, to “protect the privacy” and the “integrity of the individual”. We would like to appeal this decision. The Commission staff members were active in their role of public servants, not as private individuals. There is therefore no reason to “protect the privacy” of these Commission staff members, nor is there any risk to the “integrity of the individual” in releasing their names. The representatives of JTI were attending the meeting and corresponding with DG Trade as employees of JTI, not as individual citizens in a private capacity. They were acting as lobbyists for JTI, which means there should be transparency around who they are. Citizens have the right to know who is lobbying the EU institutions. References to the need to “protect the privacy” are not relevant in this context.

In the report from the meeting with Japan International Tobacco, several paragraphs were removed concerning “tobacco-related negotiating positions” in the TTIP and EU-Japan FTA negotiations. DG Trade argues that the disclosure of these paragraphs would “undermine the protection of international relations”, because it may involve “a number of tactical considerations of the negotiators”. It is - again - remarkable that DG Trade would share such information with a tobacco company (moreover one which is head-quartered in Japan), while refusing access-to-documents to others. We would like a review of this position, for the above-mentioned reasons and because there is a clear public interest in the public to know about “tobacco-related negotiating positions” in the TTIP and other trade talks.

Yours sincerely,

Olivier Hoedeman
on behalf of Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)

Olivier Hoedeman
Research and Campaigns Coordinator
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
Rue d'Edimbourg 26,
1050 Brussels, Belgium

http://www.corporateeurope.org
Tel. +32 (0)2 893 0930
Mobile: +32 474 486545
twitter: olivierhoedeman

EU Transparency Register ID Number: 5353162366-85

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Trade


Attachment Document 3 Redacted.pdf
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Attachment Document 4 Redacted.pdf
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Attachment Document 5 Redacted.pdf
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Attachment Document 6 Redacted.pdf
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Attachment HOEDEMAN 2015 1635 EN.pdf
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Dear Sir,

 

Please find attached a reply to your confirmatory application for access
to documents with ref. GestDem 2015/1635.

 

The original document will also be sent to you by registered mail. Please
note however that the annexes are only sent electronically.

 

Kind regards,

 

ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM (PS)

European Commission

Secretariat General

Unit SG.B4 – Transparency

 

 

 

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