123 civil society organisations demand a change of course

Health, environment and climate are not negotiable

More than 100 civil society organisations demand a stop to trade talks with the US that will further endanger EU rules on health and the environment and aggravate the climate crisis. A change of course is needed.

We have followed the recent talks between the European Commission and the US authorities on a new trade agreement with disbelief and disappointment. It has become clear that the Commission is prepared to accommodate Trump’s demands for a reduction of EU food safety levels, to the detriment of public health, animal welfare and the environment, and also undermining EU commitments on climate change. 

Fear of threats made by the US President to impose high tariffs on European cars cannot be an excuse for retreating on basic public interest. The apparent paradigm shift within the Commission, emerging after months of negotiating behind closed doors and largely shielded from public scrutiny, is highly alarming. We call on governments and parliamentarians in the EU to push the Commission to alter its course. It must be made clear to the US Administration that our public health and environmental protection levels are not for sale. 

Pressure from US trade negotiators on the EU to lower standards is nothing new. Recent statements made by US Agricultural Secretary Perdue stated that any deal would depend on concessions from the EU to allow meat rinsed with acid or chlorine, or treated with hormones, pesticide residues in food and feed, or the dismantling of protective rules on GMOs.

What is new is the response from the EU. When a comprehensive free trade agreement (TTIP) was negotiated with the US previously, the Commission claimed it would not lower standards. But recent statements by Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan about the current talks show a different approach. He has spoken of “a long list of regulatory barriers in agriculture” that could be “resolved” in an agreement. 

These “regulatory barriers” are in place for good reasons: We have rules on pesticides and chemical hormones in meat to protect our health and the environment. We have restrictions on GMOs to protect biodiversity and consumers. We have restrictions on meat treated with chlorine or acid to protect animal welfare and food safety.  EU citizens’ commitment to a precautionary approach was strongly confirmed during the public debate on TTIP – a trade agreement that would not have survived a democratic vote within the EU had it included concessions on the scale now demanded by the US.

We believe the Commission is putting the goals of the ‘European Green Deal’ at risk. This comprehensive strategy covers several elements now targeted by the US. For instance, according to the strategy the EU must work “to reduce significantly the use and risk of chemical pesticides”. Repeated calls from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) to support sustainable agriculture add further strength to this commitment. Yet, the Commission has not rejected US demands to lower ambitions in this area, and thus risks lending support to the most polluting kind of agriculture. Moreover, given that the conciliatory approach of the Commission is an attempt to protect the export from the EU of notoriously climate-damaging cars, the promise of the European Green Deal to bring about a greener approach to agriculture and trade now seems to be undermined by the Commission itself.  

Furthermore, the Commission does not even have a mandate to conduct negotiations on these matters. The mandate adopted in April 2019 leaves no space for negotiations on food and other safety standards. Trade Commissioner Hogan has said that he is “trying to look at ways where through regulatory cooperation we might be able to look at non-tariff barriers as a way of bringing agriculture issues on the table”. This suggests that the Trade Commissioner wants to establish a long-term, discreet dialogue behind the scenes to find ways to accommodate US demands, for which he has the support of some member states. That must not be allowed to happen. It would undermine EU laws and procedures agreed to decades ago, it is not within the current mandate, and it should not be in a new one.

In light of the above, we call on European governments in the Council of the EU and parliamentarians to ensure that our concerns regarding the protection of labour rights and the environment, transparency and the involvement of civil society are honoured. Our elected representatives must call for an overhaul of the current trade talks with the US. The EU must make unequivocally clear to the US Administration that our public health and environmental protection levels are not for sale, that we will not succumb to threats, and that trade policy must put people, the environment and the climate first.

 

Signed by

 

Attac Austria Austria
Katholische ArbeitnehmerInnen Bewegung Österreich Austria
Allianz gerechtes Handeln Austria
transform!at Austria
Aufstehn.at – Verein zur Förderung zivilgesellschaftlicher Partizipation Austria
Center for Encounter and Active Non-Violence Austria
GLOBAL 2000 – Friends of the Earth Austria Austria
Evangelische Kirche Hallein Austria
Anders Handeln Austria
ELA Basque Country
CNE  Belgium
vzw Climaxi Belgium
d19-20 Belgium
CNE Belgium
Entraide et Fraternité  Belgium
MAP Belgium
11.11.11 Belgium
European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) Belgium
CNCD-11.11.11 Belgium
Mouvement d’Action Paysanne Belgium
Global Aktion  Denmark
ClientEarth Europe
Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network Europe
Corporate Europe Observatory Europe
Slow Food Europe Europe
Seattle to Brussels Network Europe
European Environmental Bureau Europe
Friends of the Earth Europe Europe
Banana Link France
AAF-PSo France
Comité Pauvreté et politique France
Emmaüs International France
confederation paysanne France
réseau Roosevelt IDF France
FRANCE NATURE ENVIRONNEMENT France
Fédération Artisans du Monde  France
alofa tuvalu France
Comemrce Équitable France France
Sherpa France
Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network France France
Réseau Foi & Justice Afrique Europe antenne France France
Veblen Institute France
Attac France France
Aitec France
Collectif stop tafta France
Amis de la Terre France France
BLOOM Association France
Committee in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples of the Americas (CSIA-Nitassinan) France
Youth and Environment Europe  France 
Confederation paysanne 24 France – Dordogne
CONFEDERACIÓN INTERSINDICAL GALEGA (CIG) Galizia
PowerShift e.V. Germany
Campact Germany
BUND KG Bonn Germany
Kölner Bündnis für gerechten Welthandel Germany
Zukunftskonvent Germany
Forum Umwelt & Entwicklung Germany
Bonner Bündnis gegen TTIP & Co – für solidarischenWelthandel Germany
Arbeitskreis Freihandelsfalle von Attac München Germany
Berliner Wassertisch Germany
foodwatch international Germany
Sozial- und Schuldnerberatung Germany
Greenpeace Global
Naturefriends  Greece
Towards Sustainability Association Hungary
Clean Air Action Group Hungary
Zöldövezet Társulás Környezetvédelmi Egyesület Hungary
Green Circle of Pécs  Hungary
Fauna Alapítvány Hungary
New Hempage jdoo Hungary
Eletfa Environmental Protection Association Hungary
Civilek a Mecsekért Mozgalom Hungary
Environmental Planning and Education Network Hungary
Ararát Teremtésvédelmi Munkacsoport (Ararat Care for Creation Workgroup) Hungary
FEDERATION OF UNITED TRADE UNIONS IN THE ELECTRIC ENERGY INDUSTRY Hungary
Szombathely-Herény K. Cs. S Egyesület Hungary
Védegylet Egyesület Hungary
Tanácsadók a Fenntartható Fejlődésért Hungary
Vision Association Hungary
Holocén Természetvédelmi Egyesület Hungary
Közép-magyarországi Zöld Kör Hungary
REFLEX Környezetvédő Egyesület Hungary
Magyarországi Éghajlatvédelmi Szövetség Hungary
Karátson Gábor Kör Hungary
Magyar Természetvédők Szövetsége / Friends of the Earh Hungary Hungary
Heroes of Responsible Dining Foundation Hungary
Csalàn Egyesület Hungary
Gyermekláncfű Kézműves, Oktatási és Környezetnevelési Egyesület Hungary
Fényszaruiak Baráti Egyesülete Hungary
Zöld Akció Egyesület (Green Action) Hungary
Magosfa Foundation Hungary
Profilantrop Association Hungary
GRAIN international
Good Energies Alliance Ireland Ireland
Feasta: the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability Ireland
Irish Seed Savers Association CLG  Ireland
Fracking Free Clare  Ireland
An Claíomh Glas Ireland
An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland Ireland
Fairwatch Italy
Stop TTIP/CETA Italia Italy
transform! italia Italy
Latvian Fund for Nature Latvia
Mouvement Ecologique asbl Luxembourg
Both ENDS Netherlands
Transnational Institute Netherlands
We&waste Poland
Instytut Globlanej Odpowiedzialności (IGO) Poland
Stowarzyszenie Rozruch  Poland
Pro-Terra Foundation Poland
TROCA- Plataforma por um Comércio Internacional Justo Portugal
ZERO – Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System Portugal
CEPTA Slovakia
SOSNA  Slovakia
Umanotera Slovenia
Focus Association for Sustainable Development Slovenia
ASiA-Associació Salut i Agroecología Spain
Campanya Catalunya No als Tractats de Comerç i Inversió Spain
Campaña No a los Tratados de Comercio e Inversión Spain
Ecoogistas en Acción Spain
Coag (Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos) Spain
CONFEDERACIÓN GENERAL DEL TRABAJO(CGT) Spain
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy