MEPs must protect public from EU-US trade deal threat
As the European Parliament drafts its opinion on the controversial TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) talks, 375 civil society organisations from across Europe have called on EU decision-makers to protect citizens, workers, and the environment from the threats it poses.
In an open letter sent to MEPs today groups - including trade unions, consumer, environmental, and civil rights organisations - from 25 EU countries, warn that TTIP could constrain democratic decision-making by strengthening the influence of big business and undermining public services, the protection of public health, the environment, food and workers’ rights.
For a TTIP resolution that puts people, the environment and democracy before short-term profit and disproportionate corporate rights
Dear Member of the European Parliament,
In light of the European Parliament’s ongoing work on a resolution on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP (also known as Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement or TAFTA), we are writing as an EU-wide coalition of 375 civil society organisations who share a deep concern about the various threats posed by the agreement. We represent a wide range of public interests including environmental protection, public health, civil rights, agriculture, consumer rights and protection of food and farming standards, animal welfare, social and labour standards, workers’ rights, migrant rights, unemployment, youth and women's issues, development, public access to information and digital rights, essential public services including education, integrity of financial systems, and others.
We welcome the fact that the European Parliament is forming its opinion on the TTIP and the role that the Parliament has already played in organising democratic public debates on the issue. We call on all MEPs to agree on a strong resolution that makes clear that the European Parliament will reject any future trade or investment agreements that will not serve the public interest and threaten important rights acquired in long democratic struggles in the EU, US and the rest of the world.
For this purpose, we would like to share with you our key demands on the TTIP negotiations, which we developed together with our partners in the US and which were first released in a joint civil society statement in May 2014:
- Transparency now: all documents relating to the TTIP negotiations, including draft consolidated texts, must be made public to allow for an open and critical public debate on the TTIP.
- A democratic process to allow for the scrutiny and assessment of the negotiation texts and which would ensure that policies are in the public interest; involves the EU Parliament and debates in national parliaments; and which includes civil society organisations, trade unions and stakeholder groups.
- No ISDS: any provision containing Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms must be taken permanently out of the negotiations and no other mechanism introduced (including indirectly via other pre-existing or subsequent trade agreements) which grants privileged rights to foreign investors.
- No regulatory cooperation council: all regulation must be fully in the hands of democratically controlled bodies and processes.
- No deregulation of standards which safeguard and serve the public interest: EU standards need to be respected and not “harmonised” down to the lowest common denominator. These include social and labour standards, consumer and public health protection, care for the environment including regeneration of our natural resources, animal welfare, food safety standards and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices, access to information and labelling, culture and medicine, financial market regulation as well as data protection, net neutrality and other digital rights. Mutual recognition is not acceptable in as far as it undermines democratically-agreed standards and strong safeguards. The precautionary principle must be widely applied.
- No further deregulation and privatisation of public services. We demand guaranteed access to high quality education, healthcare and other public services and the right to choose government procurement that promotes local jobs and local economies, local content, social entrepreneurship, sustainable economics, social considerations and serves the public interest.
- The promotion of humane and environmentally sustainable agricultural practices and protection of small family farming.
- Public authorities must keep the political power and structures necessary to protect certain sensitive sectors and safeguard standards important to our quality of life. Internationally-agreed labour and environmental standards must be respected and enforced. The continuous violation of labour standards should be addressed by imposing monetary fines.
- No restrictions on international and European human rights standards.
The little information that has been released – or leaked – about the TTIP negotiations raises considerable concerns that our demands are not reflected in the approach the EU is taking. For example:
- Negotiations are happening behind closed doors, without comprehensive and effective public consultation. The lack of transparency and democratic procedures makes it impossible for citizens and civil society to monitor the negotiations in order to ensure that public interests are being protected. Business lobby groups are given privileged access to information and opportunities to influence the negotiations.
- The proposed investment protection chapter, particularly the inclusion of an Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provision, would give investors exclusive rights to sue states when democratic decisions, made by public institutions in the public interest, are considered to have negative impacts on their anticipated profits. These mechanisms rely on rulings by tribunals that operate outside the national court systems and thereby undermine our national and EU legal systems and our democratic structures for formulating laws and policies in the public interest.
- The creation of new anti-democratic governance structures and procedures that aim to ‘harmonise regulations’ like the proposed regulatory cooperation council would make the TTIP and other agreements a moving target, “living agreements”, constantly developed in secret by unelected bureaucrats and big businesses. These undemocratic structures threaten to lower important standards and rules designed for the protection of public interests, or prohibit future improvements, regardless of necessity and public mandate.
- Evidence from business and industry lobbying documents reveals that the focus on non-tariff barriers and regulatory convergence is being used to push deregulation, increased investment guarantees, reinforced intellectual property rights' monopolies and, ultimately, a race to the bottom.
We call on you to send a clear and strong signal to negotiators that the European Parliament will reject TTIP and any other trade or investment agreement going in this direction, because they would not serve the public interest and because they threaten fundamental rights and freedoms acquired in long democratic struggles.
The list of groups which have signed the statement can be found in the PDF versions of the statement: