On 12 May 2014 several NGOs from both sides of the Atlantic sent a letter to the EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and the US Ambassador Michael Froman spelling out their concerns on proposals for "regulatory cooperation" between the United States and European Union under the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
It is remarkable that EU and US negotiators have turned a technical issue into the trending topic of the year. The clear lack of transparency that characterises the TTIP talks is casting a big shadow in these negotiations. On top of this, and based on previous, equality opaqued European Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with third countries, there is a lot to worry about.
To start with, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) chapter, provided by the European Commission as an example of how the future ISDS within TTIP might look like, is almost identical to the one contained in the CETA, the recently-agreed FTA between the EU and Canada. This ISDS contains vague and highly technical clauses that compromise a given EU Member State’s right to regulate and for international firms to sue a Member State for perceived ’anti-free trade’ regulation.
Besides the lack of information, the NGO-issued letter addresses the fact that regulatory convergence can seriously lower EU standards across the board. For instance, EU legislation has to follow the precautionary principle, which in case of mutual recognition of all US products, such as chlorinated chicken or the infamous hormone beef, might mean a de facto break of one of the EU’s core principles.
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