The negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States must be opened up for public scrutiny, aruges Natacha Cingotti. Natacha Cingotti is corporate campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.
"On Friday, 14 June 2013, the EU Foreign Affairs Council approved the European Commission’s mandate to start negotiating a trade agreement between the EU and the US, also known as Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
An innocuous acronym, for a far from innocuous deal that could see Europe trade away social, health, environmental and consumer safeguards for its citizens to please profit-driven corporate agendas – in Europe and the United States.
The current mandate – about which civil society groups have to rely on leaks because of the lack of proactive disclosure by the European Commission – encompasses sectors of regulations that touch upon most aspects of European citizens’ daily life.
Concerns around cultural diversity have already raised significant and legitimate controversy, resulting in the temporary removal of audiovisual services from the mandate. It is however odd that expected attacks on the precautionary principle, food safety measures, consumer protection, or energy policies have been attracting much less attention.
The European Commission and major corporate lobby groups are promoting this deal as the way out of the current economic and financial crisis, arguing that removing what is being labelled as unnecessary trade “obstacles” will stimulate competitiveness, growth and jobs.
This not only ignores the fact that the current crisis was mainly created by a lack of regulation on investors and companies, but also the economic reality between the two trading partners. Trade barriers between the EU and the US are already very low, while the investment conditions are very secure. De facto the two markets are already highly integrated.
In this context the call for regulatory convergence in the context of TTIP could result in a dangerous opening up of key regulatory standards on both sides of the Atlantic. This could have detrimental impacts on European and American citizens alike.
In a letter to the 27 EU trade ministers last week, Friends of the Earth Europe, the European Consumers’ Bureau (BEUC) and Eurogroup for Animals warned that key safeguards are needed for the trade talks to start on a good basis.
The negotiations must be opened up for public scrutiny. It is unacceptable that the deal is being negotiated behind closed doors, without timely and full access to the draft documents along the process, and consultation with civil society – all the more since US business groups have access to negotiation texts.
Clarifications must be introduced that ensure any attempt to seek regulatory convergence will be based on the highest common regulatory standard.
In particular, cornerstones of European regulations such as the precautionary and the polluter-pays principles need to be explicitly referred to, together with the possibility for the EU and member states to take more ambitious measures than what is in the agreement.
This is particularly critical for sectors such as environment, energy, agriculture, and food safety.
Finally, an investor to state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision must be excluded from the agreement. Such provision would allow investors to take countries to special courts and ask excessive damage payments when they take measures that could affect the profits of companies.
Citizens’ protection standards should not be endangered by the introduction of unnecessary and excessive rights for investors and corporations.
The TTIP negotiations will be a critical benchmark in governments’ ability to respond to the crisis. Neglecting existing concerns about the protection of citizens’ rights will only further the gap between the public and decision-makers."