Brussels, 9 January 2014 - Ten leading European Public Health, Transparency and Environment NGOs, including EPHA, signed an open letter which highlights serious concerns with the mechanism called the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) that risks becoming part of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This letter has been published on[Euractive’s website.
The European Commission has repeatedly promised civil society that the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations with the United States will not lead to a race to the bottom in terms of environmental protection, health and safety standards and consumer rights. The fear has always been that Europe would be forced to lower the bar to create a “level playing field” between the US rules and generally more robust EU regulations. Even the EU’s long established ‘precautionary principle’ enshrined in the Treaties and underpinning European chemicals regulations could be at risk.
Despite reassurances from EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, the official language in the TTIP talks revolves around the ‘mutual recognition’ of standards or so-called reduction of non-tariff barriers through new mechanisms of regulatory cooperation. In fact, there are very few financial barriers left to be removed. Basically, the US and EU are pushing for so-called barriers to trade, including controversial regulations such as those protecting food products, health, chemicals or data privacy, to be removed as well as the prevention of additional ones.
For the EU, that could mean accepting US standards which in many cases are lower than its own. At the same time this agreement could open the gates for multinationals and investors to sue EU Member States if new environmental or health legislation is introduced that adversely affects their business prospects. There are three main areas of concern with the mechanism called the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) that risks becoming part of the TTIP.
This is not scare mongering from NGOs. Experience has shown that similar mechanisms of arbitration involving “investment loss” have sided against the rights of the broader public or environmental interests and with the corporates instead.
The combined impacts of this ISDS, together with new mechanisms for regulatory cooperation that are being negotiated under this trade and investment deal in Europe, are predictable. Europe would most likely lose its position as a global frontrunner on public policies such as water, natural environment protection, food quality, chemicals and climate and energy. European and national policy would suffer a sclerosis as a new category of impact assessments would need to be undertaken to see which multinationals interests are jeopardised.
The ISDS arrangements in the draft EU-Canada Free Trade Deal which was recently agreed by the European Commission, though not yet approved by the European Parliament and Member States, have still not been made public. How can we be reassured by Commissioner De Gucht that similar provisions in TTIP will pose few problems when we still cannot get access to the details of already negotiated agreements? Civil society groups on both sides of the Atlantic are right to feel uneasy; what is masquerading as a trade deal may be a far more sinister attempt to roll-back environmental and public health laws built up over decades in the name of corporate efficiency.
Online article at Euractiv: TTIP puts the EU’s environmental and social policies on the line
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