Today, the NAM crossed the ocean to represent U.S. manufacturers before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and fight against the public disclosure of confidential business information. In 2015, the ECJ granted the NAM intervener status in European Commission v. Stitching Greenpeace. This is significant because intervener status is more difficult to obtain in the European system since it grants the intervener the ability to argue before the court and have its issues addressed on the merits. Furthermore, by allowing our intervention, the court recognized the interest of U.S. industry in this case. It is very unusual that U.S. trade associations appear before the EU courts, and it was far from certain that we would succeed in being admitted.
As way of background, the plaintiffs requested the public disclosure of a massive amount of confidential business information relating to certain pesticides used both in the United States and Europe, including how products were manufactured and their final composition, in order to assess potential environmental impacts. This case has broad implications, not only for the crop protection industry, but also for many, if not all, U.S. chemical manufacturers operating both in the United States and in Europe. The lower court’s ruling leaves two options for companies selling goods in the European Union. Either they accept that their trade secrets will be made public, meaning that their data can be used and abused anywhere in the world by competitors, or they decide not to market their products in the European Union altogether, with obvious adverse consequences for the company and the European Union as a whole.
The lack of adequate protection for the confidentiality of proprietary data in the European Union would become a significant barrier to market access for U.S. manufacturers of many products. It would also likely discourage research and marketing of new and more effective products. As a result, the most technologically advanced products could become unavailable in the European Union. The NAM is a strong supporter of global trade and investment rules that promote trade on a level playing field. These rules provide a system in which all countries abide by core principles, including the protection of intellectual property. If the contested judgment is upheld, barriers to information sharing across the Atlantic will create big hurdles and increased costs for U.S. manufacturers exporting to the European Union, which is why we are representing manufacturers today at the ECJ oral arguments in Luxembourg.
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