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TTIP – a threat to our food standards?

TTIP – a threat to our food standards?


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Something has been rumbling on behind closed doors, with the potential to seriously harm standards of farming and food production across Britain and Europe. Most people remain unaware of the risks and have not been given the chance to vote on the proposal. It's called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP for short.

Jamie and his Food Team have remained focused on responsible standards of food production from the very beginning. Since then, we’ve felt a sense of duty to represent responsible food production, and have campaigned on the topic multiple times. It’s never plain sailing, but we’re always proud to see good progress being made by producers, retailers, and sometimes governments. However, TTIP threatens to become the largest step backwards many of us would ever have seen.

TTIP is a trade deal between the EU and the USA designed to “open up free trade”. If successful, it would allow the EU and the USA to become one common market where anything from washing machines to chicken nuggets could be freely traded. At the moment, trade is limited as various rules (legislation) exist on both sides of the pond, which get in the way of trade and business. At first glance, removing some rules and doing more business sounds like a great idea. However, if you look at the rules that could be removed, the idea doesn’t seem so clever.

TTIP covers all sorts of commodities from electrical goods, food products and cars to services such as healthcare. It’s the food part that concerns us the most.

I have been fortunate enough to visit farms, factories and food producers all over the world, representing the interests of Jamie and our business. It is always reassuring to see that, on average, the UK and Europe have very high standards and practices such as hormone implants in cattle, tonnes of antibiotics going into our chicken, or the bleaching of meat in abattoirs and so on is not an issue. On average, European standards are undoubtedly more ethical, more sustainable, and produce a higher quality product. Most progressive Americans that I’ve met agree this is the case, and look up to Britain and Europe when it comes to the quality of our food.

It is unfair to say that all food production in the USA is terrible, as some excellent examples do exist, and we will continue to support these. Good quality, higher-welfare production is on the increase in the USA, and smaller producers are seeing growing markets for their more ethical products. However, it is the lowest accepted levels we need to be aware of – the lowest common denominators. If successful, TTIP could see Europe’s standards of food production from farm to fork lowered to match the lowest in the USA.

The low levels we are referring to include:

  • Intensive chicken produced with heavy use of antibiotics, recycling of chicken faeces into chicken feed, and the chlorine tumbling of carcasses post slaughter
  • Beef reared in confinement rather than open pasture. Cattle implanted with hormones to speed up muscle growth, fed on high-energy feed, and washed in lactic acid post slaughter
  • Intensively farmed pork from animals kept confined indoors and fed with Ractopamine, a steroid-like drug that’s banned in much of the world

There are widespread concerns about how British and European farmers will survive long term if made to compete against mass-production from the USA. British farms tend to be smaller and more costly to run than the large intensive systems in the USA. This is because “efficiencies” are lower and regulation is higher, but in return they tend to be more sustainable, with higher quality, more safety measures in place and better levels of animal welfare. The truth is, they probably can’t compete, and therefore TTIP could be the last straw for an already fragile industry.

You might think “It’s OK, consumers will support the quality British or European products as they will all be clearly labelled”… well, unfortunately, this can’t happen as discriminating against the big US products would be a sueable offence under the new TTIP rulebook. It sounds impossible, unfair and totally unethical. I really wish TTIP was a bad dream, or somebody could offer a solution that would exclude our food and farming from the deal, but this is yet to happen.

European politics can be difficult to understand, especially when the discussions in Brussels happen in private and press or spectators are banned from observing the progress. I therefore suggest that anybody who is concerned about this issue first looks into it further themselves. If you’ve got the time and want to know more, the following are both really useful…

This quick video explains the basics of TTIP

And if you’re looking for something more comprehensive, here you can find a written guide to TTIP.

You can, of course, make up your own mind on how concerned you are about TTIP. If you’re looking to take action, you have the option to write to your MEP, see if they are in favour of TTIP, and have your say.

Whatever happens in terms of trade, let’s just hope that our wonderful, vital and world-leading food systems can ride the storm, for the benefit of ourselves and future generations.


What is TTIP?

The intention to launch TTIP negotiations was first announced by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address in February 2013, and the first round of negotiations took place between European Commission and US officials in July of the same year. The aim was to rush through the talks as swiftly as possible with no details entering the public domain, in the hope that they could be concluded before the peoples of Europe and the USA find out the true scale of the TTIP threat.

The stakes, in other words, could not have been higher.

There was a huge body of concern among EU and US citizens at the threats posed by TTIP, and civil society groups joined forces with academics, parliamentarians and others to prevent pro-business government officials from signing away the key social and environmental standards listed above.

TTIP was projected to cost at least 1 million jobs, undermine our most treasured public services, lead to a ‘race to the bottom’ in food, environmental and labour standards and, for the first time, allow US companies to sue the UK government in special courts.

TTIP was marketed as the answer to recession in Europe and the USA, with bogus promises of growth and jobs. Yet the official study commissioned at the start of the talks calculated that at least 1 million people would lose their jobs in the EU and USA as a direct result of TTIP. With unemployment already at record levels in much of Europe, these people would have found it impossible to get new jobs.

TTIP was not just about the EU and USA. Negotiators said that TTIP would set the standard for all future trade and investment rules across the world. This means that TTIP would have enshrine the rights of transnational corporations over and above the needs of people and the planet, forever.


TTIP talks bogged down in food standards debate

Seemingly insurmountable differences in food standards are threatening to sink trade negotiations between the United States and the European Union. EURACTIV Spain reports.

Since 2013, the United States and the EU have been working to construct what would be the biggest trade deal in the world. But negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have got bogged down on a number of issues.

According to Brian Kilgallen, part of the European Commission’s negotiating team, one of the major hurdles that remains to be overcome in the TTIP negotiations is the chapter dedicated to phytosanitary mesures (plant and animal health).

At a recent meeting of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), he said the agreement would increase trade with the rest of the world and “encourage other countries to adopt similar standards”.

EU, US trade talks seek to advance regulatory pillar

Set to meet in New York next week (20-24 April) for the ninth round of talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), negotiators are determined to make progress on all strands of the deal, but particularly on regulatory cooperation.

But the Commission representative dismissed the idea that TTIP would weaken the EU’s food security standards.

For Kilgallen, TTIP does not pose a threat to the precautionary principle, under which an EU policy or action can be abandoned if it causes harm to humans or the environment, or if there is no scientific consensus on its effects.

This approach, employed by many net impoters of food to protect them from unexpected threats or pressure from public opinion, contrasts with the American method of risk management. Across the Atlantic, food standards are based purely on proven scientific evidence.

The mismatch between these two principles is most evident in questions like the use of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics in livestock rearing, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and food labelling, as well as designations of protected origin.

Greece to block TTIP unless geographical indications are protected

EXCLUSIVE / The Greek government is ready to veto the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the US and the EU unless it ensures increased protection for key agricultural geographical indicators.

Kilgallen added that GMOs were not part of the TTIP discussions, which do not address areas where no convergence of standards is possible.

He said that the executive was pushing for a “fair” level of transparency in testing and to standardise import procedures, highlighting the importance of animal well-being and antimicrobial resistance, among other issues.

The European Commission advocates a regional approach to infection prevention, Kilgallen said. Under the current EU system, areas affected by an epidemic can be isolated to prevent the fear of contagion interrupting all foreign trade with the EU.

In May, the NGO Greenpeace published a series of leaked documents which appeared to confirm fears that TTIP would undermine EU standards.

Juergen Knirsh, a trade expert at Greenpeace, said the documents showed the US clearly wants to get rid of European standards by saying they are “not based on science”.

Timmermans: Transparency is needed to ‘reconnect with sceptical citizens'

Frans Timmermans claimed on Monday (2 May) that the EU was a world leader in trade transparency, as he called for a compulsory register of lobbyists in Brussels.

Because of the way the negotiations are conducted, Knirsh believes there will come a point when the negotiators will have to prioritise certain questions above others. When that moment arrives, he fears, consumer rights and the environment will be the biggest losers.

“TTIP is more dangerous [than other trade deals] because it encompasses nearly all subjects, except cultural and audiovisual services,” Knirsh said.

Sebastian Hielm, an analyst in the secretariat of the Codex Alimentarius group, stressed that trade deals could not violate the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). On questions of food security, the WTO defers to the standards set by Codex.

Approved at international level, the Codex standards fix the minimum requirements that have to be respected in order to guarantee food safety, Hielm said.

The WTO also allows governments to adopt measures to protect human or animal health or to preserve plants, on the condition that they do not discriminate and that they are not a disguise for protectionism.

Hielm added that trade agreements could provide answers to questions that were not addressed by the WTO, like how to fight the spread of animal diseases, for example.

For Hielm, trade deals like TTIP can be “catalysts for change”, because “if the biggest food exporters agree on common standards, the others will have to follow”.


Power grabs and falsehoods

TTIP seems to be already having an impact on how food laws are discussed and changed before it’s even finalised. EU Agriculture Commissioner Hogan stated that, in parallel with the TTIP talks, barriers between the EU and US on food safety could be already removed. In contradiction of this, and the published positions on the negotiations, EU Trade Commissioner Malmström said last week that controversial foods or those with large differences in standards in the EU and US wouldn’t be touched. Both cannot be true.

But it’s not just current protections for people and the environment that are at risk if EU and US regulations are harmonised. Desperately needed future improvements to regulation protecting our environment and public health could be prevented from going forward if this trade deal is agreed.

Documents now available on the regulatory cooperation and food safety chapters of TTIP show the intention to allow trade experts to assess the potential trade impacts of any new food safety legislation. Before any new food law would be discussed with food safety experts, either in the EU or US, the newly created body of trade experts should “review the annexes of the agreement” as well as “discuss at an early stage, changes to measures being considered”.

So this body will filter all new food safety rules, transferring power from national authorities to the new committee. This transfer of power will mean that the initial decision will be in the hand of trade officials and not with food safety officials at national level. Our worry is that these trade experts will see the introduction of new food safety rules as barriers to trade, rather than the reflection of the needs and demands of society.

The thought of farming practices and food quality being interfered with is understandably unpalatable. As awareness has grown of the risks from TTIP to essential protections for our environment and public, so too has opposition grown. Our farming and food production system needs drastic improvement, but this Trojan horse of a trade deal would lock us into a regulatory race to the bottom.

For the sake of our food and its impact on our environment, TTIP needs to be stopped.


TTIP – a threat to our food standards?

Something has been rumbling on behind closed doors, with the potential to seriously harm standards of farming and food production across Britain and Europe. Most people remain unaware of the risks and have not been given the chance to vote on the proposal. It’s called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP for short.

Jamie and his Food Team have remained focused on responsible standards of food production from the very beginning. Since then, we’ve felt a sense of duty to represent responsible food production, and have campaigned on the topic multiple times. It’s never plain sailing, but we’re always proud to see good progress being made by producers, retailers, and sometimes governments. However, TTIP threatens to become the largest step backwards many of us would ever have seen.

TTIP is a trade deal between the EU and the USA designed to “open up free trade”. If successful, it would allow the EU and the USA to become one common market where anything from washing machines to chicken nuggets could be freely traded. At the moment, trade is limited as various rules (legislation) exist on both sides of the pond, which get in the way of trade and business. At first glance, removing some rules and doing more business sounds like a great idea. However, if you look at the rules that could be removed, the idea doesn’t seem so clever.

TTIP covers all sorts of commodities from electrical goods, food products and cars to services such as healthcare. It’s the food part that concerns us the most.

I have been fortunate enough to visit farms, factories and food producers all over the world, representing the interests of Jamie and our business. It is always reassuring to see that, on average, the UK and Europe have very high standards and practices such as hormone implants in cattle, tonnes of antibiotics going into our chicken, or the bleaching of meat in abattoirs and so on is not an issue. On average, European standards are undoubtedly more ethical, more sustainable, and produce a higher quality product. Most progressive Americans that I’ve met agree this is the case, and look up to Britain and Europe when it comes to the quality of our food.

It is unfair to say that all food production in the USA is terrible, as some excellent examples do exist, and we will continue to support these. Good quality, higher-welfare production is on the increase in the USA, and smaller producers are seeing growing markets for their more ethical products. However, it is the lowest accepted levels we need to be aware of – the lowest common denominators. If successful, TTIP could see Europe’s standards of food production from farm to fork lowered to match the lowest in the USA.

The low levels we are referring to include:

  • Intensive chicken produced with heavy use of antibiotics, recycling of chicken faeces into chicken feed, and the chlorine tumbling of carcasses post slaughter
  • Beef reared in confinement rather than open pasture. Cattle implanted with hormones to speed up muscle growth, fed on high-energy feed, and washed in lactic acid post slaughter
  • Intensively farmed pork from animals kept confined indoors and fed with Ractopamine, a steroid-like drug that’s banned in much of the world

There are widespread concerns about how British and European farmers will survive long term if made to compete against mass-production from the USA. British farms tend to be smaller and more costly to run than the large intensive systems in the USA. This is because “efficiencies” are lower and regulation is higher, but in return they tend to be more sustainable, with higher quality, more safety measures in place and better levels of animal welfare. The truth is, they probably can’t compete, and therefore TTIP could be the last straw for an already fragile industry.

You might think “It’s OK, consumers will support the quality British or European products as they will all be clearly labelled”… well, unfortunately, this can’t happen as discriminating against the big US products would be a sueable offence under the new TTIP rulebook. It sounds impossible, unfair and totally unethical. I really wish TTIP was a bad dream, or somebody could offer a solution that would exclude our food and farming from the deal, but this is yet to happen.

European politics can be difficult to understand, especially when the discussions in Brussels happen in private and press or spectators are banned from observing the progress. I therefore suggest that anybody who is concerned about this issue first looks into it further themselves. If you’ve got the time and want to know more, the following are both really useful…

This quick video explains the basics of TTIP

TTIP – a threat to our food standards?
By Daniel Nowland | October 28, 2015 | In Around the world
TTIP

Something has been rumbling on behind closed doors, with the potential to seriously harm standards of farming and food production across Britain and Europe. Most people remain unaware of the risks and have not been given the chance to vote on the proposal. It’s called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP for short.

Jamie and his Food Team have remained focused on responsible standards of food production from the very beginning. Since then, we’ve felt a sense of duty to represent responsible food production, and have campaigned on the topic multiple times. It’s never plain sailing, but we’re always proud to see good progress being made by producers, retailers, and sometimes governments. However, TTIP threatens to become the largest step backwards many of us would ever have seen.

TTIP is a trade deal between the EU and the USA designed to “open up free trade”. If successful, it would allow the EU and the USA to become one common market where anything from washing machines to chicken nuggets could be freely traded. At the moment, trade is limited as various rules (legislation) exist on both sides of the pond, which get in the way of trade and business. At first glance, removing some rules and doing more business sounds like a great idea. However, if you look at the rules that could be removed, the idea doesn’t seem so clever.

TTIP covers all sorts of commodities from electrical goods, food products and cars to services such as healthcare. It’s the food part that concerns us the most.

I have been fortunate enough to visit farms, factories and food producers all over the world, representing the interests of Jamie and our business. It is always reassuring to see that, on average, the UK and Europe have very high standards and practices such as hormone implants in cattle, tonnes of antibiotics going into our chicken, or the bleaching of meat in abattoirs and so on is not an issue. On average, European standards are undoubtedly more ethical, more sustainable, and produce a higher quality product. Most progressive Americans that I’ve met agree this is the case, and look up to Britain and Europe when it comes to the quality of our food.

It is unfair to say that all food production in the USA is terrible, as some excellent examples do exist, and we will continue to support these. Good quality, higher-welfare production is on the increase in the USA, and smaller producers are seeing growing markets for their more ethical products. However, it is the lowest accepted levels we need to be aware of – the lowest common denominators. If successful, TTIP could see Europe’s standards of food production from farm to fork lowered to match the lowest in the USA.

The low levels we are referring to include:

Intensive chicken produced with heavy use of antibiotics, recycling of chicken faeces into chicken feed, and the chlorine tumbling of carcasses post slaughter
Beef reared in confinement rather than open pasture. Cattle implanted with hormones to speed up muscle growth, fed on high-energy feed, and washed in lactic acid post slaughter
Intensively farmed pork from animals kept confined indoors and fed with Ractopamine, a steroid-like drug that’s banned in much of the world

There are widespread concerns about how British and European farmers will survive long term if made to compete against mass-production from the USA. British farms tend to be smaller and more costly to run than the large intensive systems in the USA. This is because “efficiencies” are lower and regulation is higher, but in return they tend to be more sustainable, with higher quality, more safety measures in place and better levels of animal welfare. The truth is, they probably can’t compete, and therefore TTIP could be the last straw for an already fragile industry.

You might think “It’s OK, consumers will support the quality British or European products as they will all be clearly labelled”… well, unfortunately, this can’t happen as discriminating against the big US products would be a sueable offence under the new TTIP rulebook. It sounds impossible, unfair and totally unethical. I really wish TTIP was a bad dream, or somebody could offer a solution that would exclude our food and farming from the deal, but this is yet to happen.

European politics can be difficult to understand, especially when the discussions in Brussels happen in private and press or spectators are banned from observing the progress. I therefore suggest that anybody who is concerned about this issue first looks into it further themselves. If you’ve got the time and want to know more, the following are both really useful…

This quick video explains the basics of TTIP

And if you’re looking for something more comprehensive, here you can find a written guide to TTIP.

You can, of course, make up your own mind on how concerned you are about TTIP. If you’re looking to take action, you have the option to write to your MEP, see if they are in favour of TTIP, and have your say.

Whatever happens in terms of trade, let’s just hope that our wonderful, vital and world-leading food systems can ride the storm, for the benefit of ourselves and future generations.


TTIP | E-mail your MP NOW!

Later today, MPs are going to debate TTIP, the dodgy trade deal between the EU and US. [1]

There is a rare opportunity for us to make sure our MPs speak out against the deal in front of the government Minister responsible. Together, we can make sure our MPs, and the government, know that we’re still against TTIP.

TTIP is a danger to our way of life it could affect our NHS, our environment and our democracy. Under TTIP, corporations could get the right to sue us if they don’t like our laws. [2]

Thursday’s debate has been called by a cross-party group of MPs who think parliament should have more of a say on TTIP – even MPs think the deal is too secretive! [3] Officials and diplomats across Europe and the US are likely to be watching closely. Together, we can show them that when David Cameron says he wants to put ‘rocket boosters’ under TTIP, he doesn’t speak for us. [4] If we can persuade enough MPs to turn up and voice concerns about TTIP, it could really rock the boat.

Just this summer, 38 Degrees members and other campaigners persuaded over half of UK MEPs (our politicians in the European Parliament) to oppose TTIP. [5] But we need to make sure MPs feel the heat too – and that means making sure they know we want them to speak up on our behalf at every opportunity. When we come together as a force, we can take on enormous challenges: the stakes are high with TTIP, so we need to do everything we can to stop this dodgy deal.

Picture this: At the debate, a stream of MPs take to their feet to tell the government that they’ve been inundated with emails from their constituents and the message is loud and clear – we oppose TTIP. The government will be left in no doubt that we see the deal for what it is: a sinister corporate power grab and a threat to our democracy.

But this all hinges on our MPs hearing from us. They need to know why TTIP is bad, and that we expect them to show up and represent our views. It only takes two minutes, so will you email your MP now?

Will you email your MP asking them to speak out, on your behalf, against TTIP? There’s some suggested text that you can use, so it’ll only take 2 minutes to send the email:

Will you email your MP now? It only takes 2 minutes
Tell your MP: oppose TTIP at Thursday’s debate

Thanks for being involved,

Amy, Rachel, Megan, Blanche and the 38 Degrees team

NOTES:
[1] This last-minute debate has been called by Geraint Davies, Zac Goldsmith and Caroline Lucas. They want MPs to be able to properly scrutinise TTIP.

We know that the more people know about this dodgy deal, the more likely they are to turn against it, so more scrutiny of TTIP can only be a good thing for our campaign to scrap it.

The debate is a backbench business debate, which is a chance for some MPs to call for a debate on an issue they care about or want extra scrutiny on.

[2] TTIP will affect every aspect of our lives, from the NHS to democracy. It:

  • Threatens our public services
  • Transfers powers to big businesses and away from us
  • Weakens our safety standards
  • Lets huge corporations sue governments over regulations they don’t like
  • Weakens our employment rights

[3] Geraint Davies MP (Labour), Zac Goldsmith MP (Conservative) and Caroline Lucas MP (Green) have put forward the debate together.

Here’s my e-mail to Ben Bradshaw MP:

I hear there is a debate on TTIP happening in Parliament on Thursday. Please can you assure me that you will attend and voice your opposition to this dangerous deal?

David Cameron says he wants to put ‘rocket boosters’ under TTIP, but he doesn’t speak for me, hundreds more of your constituents, or hundreds and thousands of people across the UK. I think this is an important issue and as my MP I’d like you to take part in this debate.

In its current form, TTIP threatens our democracy because it:
– allows multi-national corporations to sue governments over policies they don’t like
– puts US firms’ profits ahead of our safety regulations gives corporations more power over our lives
– threatens the NHS by “opening it up to competition”
– prevent consideration of environmental and social
factors when awarding contracts and
– undermine any local authority that makes a decision to take services back under public control

Paul Bull
5 Cranbrook Road
EX25HG
[email protected]


Young Europeans Network

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is believed to be the magical cure to the EU’s slowing economic growth: it will not only boost our economies but also reduce unemployment and cut red tape. Amazing. But wait – if this is true, why have more than 3.35 million EU citizens (myself included), 518 EU civil society organisations, thousands of municipalities and more than 200 MEPs publicly opposed TTIP?

Stop-TTIP campaign – by Levieuxtoby licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

The European Commission argues that TTIP will boost our economies. It support its argument by a study made by the Centre for Economic Policy Research, commissioned by the European Commission itself. When reading this study, I expected to find evidence of the significant benefits that TTIP would bring to us. The reality was much different. Indeed, the study concludes that in the best-case scenario, the projected gains are a 0.5% increase in GDP and an extra €545 in disposable income for a family of four by 2027. Or €131 per person. Yes, you read me correctly. Either we have another conception of what “significant benefits” are or this is not impressive at all.

This best-case scenario rests on a whole set of unrealistic assumptions, such as the complete removal of tariffs by 2017, and ignores costs such as the costs of ISDS cases (an issue addressed below) or of tariff reductions (reducing government revenues). It also assumes the existence of a redistributive mechanism that would ensure that we all benefit from TTIP. In other words, this best-case scenario will probably never happen.

So economic growth will be quite limited. What about the reduction in unemployment? Well here again, there might have been too much excitement surrounding this issue. The European Commission’s 2013 impact assessment report on TTIP recognises that there will be a “prolonged and substantial” displacement of EU workers due to TTIP. It also states that workers who lose their jobs because of TTIP will probably remain unemployed and thus encourages EU member states to create structural support funds to compensate those that lose their jobs as a result of TTIP. In other words, EU member states will have to set up funds to compensate those that will be chronically unemployed due to an agreement supposed to reduce unemployment and increase people’s wealth. Interesting.

Now, Article 23.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, both ratified by each member state, state that everyone has the right to work and be protected against unemployment. The respect of human rights is a core value of the EU. Why would they ever allow a treaty that threatens those rights? Is there anything else at stake? Well, apart from selling our democratic standards off to multinationals, not much.

Anti-TTIP portest in Brussels, Belgium – by Greensefa licensed under CC BY 2.0.

One of the major resolutions of TTIP is the Investor State Settlement Dispute (ISDS) mechanism. The ISDS basically allows companies to sue governments over laws that affect their profits, even if these laws are socially and environmental beneficial. For example, the Swedish energy company Vattenfall sued the German government through an ISDS for issuing standards for the management of wastewaters. Vattenfal argued that this measure threatened the economic viability of their projects and asked for a compensation of €1.4 billion. It settled the case when Germany decided to reduce its environmental standards. This is only one example out of many. This privatisation of law making is not compatible with democracy. By including ISDS in TTIP, EU Member States are transferring part of their sovereignty to multinational companies. I don’t know about you but I am not ready to sell my right to a more socially and environmentally fair world in exchange for greater profits by multinational companies.

And I am not the only one. In fact, on Jul the 15 th , the Commission hold a public consultation on ISDS. It received more than 15,000 replies – a response unseen since the creation of the EU! 97% of the replies opposed the inclusion of ISDS in TTIP. As a result, Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU Trade Commissioner, proposed a new system called the Investment Court System. Funnily enough, while this reform plan now allows government to appeal the decision of the private court, the concept of private arbitration for foreign investors remains intact. In the words of the Green/EFA MEP Ska Keller “The system being proposed by the Commission has another name and some structural differences but it retains all the hallmarks of the deeply flawed ISDS system: it would remain a private arbitration body, outside the legal system, created for the benefit of corporations to challenge state authorities and democratically-approved laws.”

You may ask how this unbelievable situation came about? The answer is simple: secrecy. TTIP negotiations are not conducted in a transparent manner and key documents are kept away from most people. Even MEP members of INTA, the international trade committee of the European Parliament, do not have access to the full set of documents being negotiated. When access to key documents is granted, MEPs have to read them inside reading rooms in Brussels and Washington. Before entering the room, they have to sign a 14-page document binding them to silence and leave all of their possessions at the door. They cannot take notes and cannot tell anyone about what they read – not even their constituents or colleagues – as doing so would be considered an act of espionage. Indeed, this secrecy prevents citizens and MEPs from being fully informed and effectively engaging in the political process, undermining democracy. Furthermore, most consultations held by the European Commission since the beginning of the negotiations were with private companies and their lobby groups (119 out of the 130 consultations). Citizens will only have access to the text once deal is done. Since the beginning, the framework of the treaty is designed to benefit multinationals at the expense of our democratic standards. But how can the TTIP negotiations be considered democratic when the very ones that will be affected by their outcome can’t access the negotiating text? And why are citizens discriminated against businesses?

TTIP protest in London – by Hochgeladen von Mquandalle, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Now let’s examine the final argument: that TTIP will reduce red tape and facilitate investments by aligning regulations in the US and the EU. As tariffs are already quite low in both the US and the EU, it is believed that 80% of the benefits from TTIP will come from harmonising standards. The European Commission has assured us that this could only lead to a levelling of standards, but the evidence pushes to the contrary. Firstly, rather than cut red tape, TTIP will lengthen the time taken to raise standards and introduce new ones. The EU will have to consult the US, and foreign investors will be able to stop and/or weaken regulations, further complicating the process. Secondly, a Regulatory Co-operation Committee, composed of companies’ representatives and state actors, will be in charge of the harmonisation of standards, inter alia. To do so, it will be given rights to interfere with every stage of policy-making by governments and will have the ability to override government’s decisions. Once again, granting companies the right to weaken our standards if it harms their ability to make profits. And this is already happening! For example, the EU is now planning to lift a ban on imports of chickens washed in PAA, an acid disinfectant and known skin, eye and lung irritant, due to intense pressure by the US government and US chicken producers. Thirdly, in cases where the US and the EU can’t agree on a mutual standard, both will be able to continue with their own. Thus, EU companies will face unfair competition when they have to comply with higher social and environmental standards. This is likely to result in pressure to lower those standards.

The choice is ours. Do we accept to sell our democracy to multinationals, or do we actually come up with a treaty that fosters cooperation and economic growth, without giving up on these standards? Getting our voices heard will not be easy. But it is feasible. We must do everything to force the European Commission to listen to its citizens. We need to stand together and pressure MEPs into rejecting TTIP. We need to raise awareness of TTIP, and sign and share the petition by the European Citizens Initiative against TTIP. A version of this petition – with a preliminary final count of 3,263,920 signatures – was delivered to the European Court of Justice last month. Let’s show the ECJ that we are not ready to give up on our strong social and environmental standards for €131. And even if the European Parliament ratifies TTIP, EU governments will have to decide whether they approve it or not. This means that we can induce them to veto TTIP. And it is crucial that we do.


Young Europeans Network

The Eurozone Crisis, Ukraine–Russian tensions, Greek debt, the Refugee Crisis, and possible Brexit. It’s fair to say that EU has seen its fair share of criticisms over the last few years. What was once thought to bring further prosperity, stability and unity has challenged the EU and its institutions. However there seems to be another European Commission proposal that might challenge it even further. Advertised as one of the biggest trade deals and global economic turning points of the century, TTIP and its Canadian cousin trade talks (aka CETA), have been heavily criticised as ultimately threatening the EU and it’s Member State’s (MS) sovereignty and democracy. In case that isn’t worrying enough for the ordinary European citizen, further criticisms have included threat to publicly owned services, global warming and public health, inviting nicknames such as the deal that allows “corporate businesses to write our laws”, “the [healthcare] privatisation deal”, and my personal favourite, the deal that will “force chlorine-soaked chickens down European throats”.

An example of anti-TTIP protests – by Greensefa, licensed under CC BY 2.0

TTIP is not the first Free Trade Agreements (FTA) that has sparked criticism and attracted sceptics from the public health fields. But it is the first FTA that has involved more structured ad hoc consultations with stakeholders and wider society. Although participation with stakeholders has remained limited due to logistical reasons, the result of this broad negotiation process means it is also the first FTA that has had to consider broader stakeholders and elements outside of economic development such as public health. The EU and it’s MSs together boast some of the highest standards of health and healthcare in the world, and given current emerging health trends, they remain highly committed to maintaining it. However various elements of TTIP have been criticised for threatening the EU’s public health. Nonetheless, many of these criticisms are unpredictable and unforeseeable.

The first proposed concerns tariff reductions on agri-food products and will aim to reduce food prices, especially on processed foods. This will indeed affect European citizens’ diet and health, ultimately undermining Europe’s current efforts to reduce chronic diseases caused by already unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits. However, only a few studies have suggested a relationship with tariff reductions from previous FTAs and increase of unhealthy food consumption. Even if this were the case, MS’s public health bodies would still have the mandate to set regulatory measures and policies on the national level to: a) reduce unhealthy ingredients such salt and sugar and, b) promote healthy lifestyles. Additionally the EU also maintains high food and consumer safety standards, which will not change as a result of TTIP either. This also explains why GMO agri-products will not be imported to Europe, which the EU still strongly opposes. In fact, TTIP does not aim to modify food safety standards in the EU or the US, but aims to facilitate trading between them based on mutual recognition of existing standards.

Picture of a leaflet against the inclusion of the NHS in TTIP – Public Domain

The most controversial element of the agreement that has sparked public scepticism is that publicly run services will be opened up to the private sector, although many member states have asked to “exempt” public services, including healthcare which, in theory, are not suitable for “traditional” market competition. Notwithstanding this, no single health system in the EU lies completely in the hands of the public sector. Even the UK who pioneered in its health system after World War II, and boasts a “traditional” NHS model of healthcare, has been outsourcing many of its services to the private sector since the 1970s, including infrastructure and management services. Additionally, the exemption clause that was recently added into TTIP offers member states “soft exclusion” rather than “hard exclusion” or “carve out”, meaning many of the MSs will have to explicitly decide if and how much of their health system should excluded. So far no MS has formally set out its position, except for the UK who has suggested they may not exclude many parts of their health system.

If service trading seemed controversial enough, then nothing could out-win ISDS, the culprit of the extending TTIP talks. Under WTO regulation, ISDS is already present in the Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) between EU member states and the US, however to date no ISDS has taken place. What TTIP proposes further, is to increase protection against inappropriate claims. A report published by the British Parliament found that the USA had the highest ISDS claims against it globally, whereas ISDS claims in Europe were between MSs. Whilst this topic has been extensively debated, ISDS towards health services would be highly unlikely, although not impossible. One area it could impact health services is in public procurement and the ability of governments to bring previously privatised sectors into the state sector, allowing companies who owned such services to claim ‘indirect appropriation’ of future profits if services were to return to the public sector.

The question of TTIP is a difficult one, regardless of which sector you are coming from. Like many trade agreements, the ultimate aim of TTIP is to increase competition, trade and boost the economy. Unfortunately the outcomes in terms of health and health system performance will not be visible in a fortnight. Despite its challenges, if there is anything that Europe has managed to do in the last 60 years, it is to create a more mobile, educated and healthier society – the building blocs of an economically sustainable society. Europe has every interest to maintain this reputation, but whether TTIP will significantly change this is unknown.


TTIP threatens EU food safety and animal welfare standards, claim NGOs

The report claims EU rules could be watered down to smooth the way for US imports

Friends of the Earth Europe has published an analysis of EU proposals for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations on food safety and animal welfare, in conjunction with the Center for Food Safety, GRAIN, Compassion in World Farming and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

“Analysis of the draft published by the EU raises a number of concerns about the impact on food safety and animal welfare,”​ the report​ said.

“These include: the priority given to maximizing trade, the shift of power from national governments to a new trade committee, the threat to the ability of local authorities to set higher standards, the risk of minimal health and safety checks for novel foods (including GMOs, cloned animals, and nano materials), non-binding provisions for animal welfare, and the required adoption of international food standards established through the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Novel food imports?

In particular, it argues that the Commission’s proposal could undermine local or national measures introduced to raise safety and animal welfare standards, and claims the deal could open the EU to imports of unregulated nanomaterials and novel foods, for which the US lacks specific regulation.

The European Public Health Alliance said in a statement: “The European Commission has repeatedly committed itself to high food safety standards in the EU. However, this is now threatened by TTIP, which seeks to remove differences in current rules between the EU and the US that are seen as ‘trade-distorting’ either by harmonisation or mutual recognition.”


TTIP leaks expose massive threat to food and farming

Well everything actually. The mushrooms are genetically altered but we won’t know why and the beef may be cheaper but it is still industrially reared and will undercut UK farmers.

These are two insights drawn from a recent detailed look at the TTIP leaks which came out in April by The Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). The leaks gave us the first peek into US thinking on proposals for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the EU-US trade deal that has been kept entirely secret until now. They also show how far the negotiators will go to stich up global trade deals to the disadvantage of developing countries.

But back to the mushrooms. The genes of the mushrooms have been modified by a US company to stop them going brown: the company says it is safe. The US government considers it safe too. This practice is not regulated and there is no risk assessment to be carried out. It has been clear since the talks started that a big issue in TTIP would be how differently we judge risk in food and chemical safety.

Food safety rules in the US fall far short of European standards. The standard of evidence of risk is low and much of that evidence is kept under wraps as commercially ‘confidential’.

By contrast, the EU applies the precautionary principle which means a new product or chemical or process usually needs to be proven safe if there is suspected risk of causing harm to the public, or to the environment. The burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those promoting it. A lack of evidence or scientific data does not mean a lack of harm. The GM mushrooms would currently be regulated but after TTIP, who knows?

In addition the leaks suggest the EU would have to constantly prove safety rules are necessary. This puts corporations in control of the food safety assessment system.

Safety aside, the leaks confirm what we’ve already suspected about TTIP’s negative impact on many farmers. For instance, IATP describe how the leaks show a real risk to schemes designed to support local businesses. The US maintains strong protection for local procurement for services like school transport, farm to school programmes. The EU wants a chunk of these potentially lucrative markets and whilst the US seems disinclined to give way, it’s unclear from the leaks what would happen. There is a real risk such support for local businesses will be traded away in the final negotiations.

Farmer groups and others have already expressed concern about TTIP impact on farm incomes. Under the deal most food trade tariffs, as with other tariffs, between the EU and US would be reduced, meaning vulnerable farm sectors would have to compete with low cost producers. US farmers use hormones to boost beef yields – a practice banned in Europe. Enterprising US farmers who have also ditched the practice want a slice of the EU market and will apparently get an extra tariff reduction. More pressure on UK beef farmers.

All tariffs are on the table and up for discussion. As IATP note “the EU and U.S. negotiators are busy horse trading the lives of small dairy and meat producers and processors over the amount of car parts and other goods each side is willing to liberalize.

In reality, standards for food production TTIP threatens - such as on animal welfare, GM, cloning and chemical for chickens - don’t come under tariff removal but remain hugely contentious. As such they will have a key part in the final reckoning.

The leaks describe all sorts of new ways in which industry could get control over our health and safety systems. The ‘Regulatory Cooperation’ text indicates that regulators may be required to do cost benefits analyses of any proposed new rules. This could give corporations all sorts of handy data to use in an investment dispute and loads work onto regulators.

Safety regulations would be forbidden “until and unless alternatives to achieve the appropriate level of protection” have been explored – once again putting the burden on the regulator rather than the companies. As IATP put it, we would have a “an exhaustive process of ‘timely submitted public comments’ by industry to slow down or even stop new regulations, including regulations to protect public and environmental health.

The final threat the leaks reveal is to developing countries which must be able to protect their food supply to ensure citizens can eat and farmers against global trade shocks and being flooded with cheap imports. Disturbingly, the leak unveiled a new ‘agriculture chapter’ in TTIP which could see the EU and US ganging up to dictate trade on their terms: this powerful alliance working to keep what special farm protection they want while stopping developing countries from protecting their own sensitive agricultural markets from cheap and subsidised imports.

TTIP it is not a pretty sight for citizens, consumers, farmers or developing countries. We must oppose TTIP and similar deals which will devastate our food and farming and hand even greater power to corporations to dictate policy.


Warned is forearmed

The reassurances from EU and US negotiators that “food standards will not be lowered” cannot be trusted. The public needs to know that because of TTIP, imports may be allowed that do not meet local standards. Farmers should be aware that they will suffer more and unfair competition. We can also expect that standards will be lowered, or may be undermined during the implementation phase. Regulatory convergence will fundamentally change the way politics is done in the future, with industry sitting right at the table if they get their way.

When all these elements are taken together, TTIP reveals itself as the ultimate tool of EU and US agribusiness to counter any 'inconvenient' food-related standard. Anyone engaged in creating or arguing for a food and farming system that produces healthy food and is ecologically sustainable and socially just should roll up their sleeves to stop TTIP.



Comments:

  1. Jamal

    Quite right! So.

  2. Danny

    I can not take part now in discussion - it is very occupied. But I will soon necessarily write that I think.

  3. Bwana

    I am sorry, it at all does not approach me.

  4. Doubei

    I believe that you are making a mistake. I can prove it.

  5. Zolohn

    Don't break yourself on the head!

  6. Umayr

    It was and with me. Enter we'll discuss this question. Here or in PM.



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