Trading away protection

Re-opened EU-US trade talks threaten standards on both sides of the Atlantic

As US President Trump this week reaffirmed a new EU-US trade deal as the only way to avert new punitive tariffs on EU manufactured import goods, the ongoing trade negotiations between the trading blocs are back in the headlines. A new report today warns of the serious risks of such a trade agreement for public health, consumer rights and the environment.

In “Trading Away Protection” lobby watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory and the EU Office of the Austrian Chamber of Labour (AK Europa) lay out the attempts of US negotiators to launch a renewed attack on EU precautionary measures for the safety of chemicals, food and GMOs, while also explaining that EU negotiators are pushing for US acceptance of EU product approval rules, so-called conformity assessment, which have proved highly flawed in sensitive areas such as medical devices.

Following the first threats of punitive tariffs made by US President Trump last summer, EU and US negotiators have been holding talks to avert a trade war since July 2018. By now, both sides have put their demands on the table, and what has so far become public should raise the alarm for politicians, consumer groups and others who followed with concern the negotiations on the tanked Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Many of the ‘TTIP’ worries remain valid for the current EU-US negotiations and new ones are emerging.

The new study also looks at the transparency of the negotiations so far, concluding that the level of access to information for EU decision-makers and the public have much worsened since the TTIP talks. While the EU Commission’s negotiators made sure to thoroughly consult with the business community on their negotiating stance, very little has been communicated to the public.

Corporate Europe Observatory trade researcher Kenneth Haar said:

“The worst thing that could happen would be both sides getting their way. EU safety standards for chemicals, GMOs, pesticides, and foods would take a massive hit and the US would see some of its product approval systeme undermines by a more lax European approach.

“The result could be consumers in the EU being forced to eat non-labelled gene-manipulated foods that have been treated with toxic pesticides, while patients in the US could wind up with unsafe implants. This must not be allowed to happen.

“It is provoking to see EU negotiators once again keeping their moves in the dark. There is even less transparency around the current negotiations than there was around TTIP. While the Commission is consulting in depth with European corporations, the public is not kept informed in any meaningful way.”

Valentin Wedl from the Austrian Chamber of Labour said:

“Any trade agreement must contribute to fair globalisation policies. Regrettably, current EU-US negotiations on this “TTIP light” are putting workers´, consumers´, environmental and other public interests, and especially the EU precautionary principle, at risk once more. To this end, these domains have to be clearly und unmistakably exempted from any negotiations on the scope of “conformity assessments” or any kind of “regulation cooperation”.

 

Contact:

Kenneth Haar, kenneth@corporateeurope.org, +45-23600631

Notes to editors:

  • Read "Trading Away Protection" in full here.

  • German-language edition of the report will be available at the end of September.