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US/EU Trade Negotiations Must Protect Consumers
WASHINGTON - July 10 - With negotiators from the United States and European Union meeting for the first round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks this week, U.S. PIRG called on them to resist special interest demands to eliminate important consumer health, safety, and financial protections.
"While this proposed trade agreement may have important economic benefits, special interests are also using it as a pretext to push for the rollback of consumer safety and financial protections that they don't like," said Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director at U.S. PIRG.
Past trade agreements have often sought the lowest common denominator in consumer protections, rather than the highest. For example, NAFTA resulted in weaker health protections for the U.S., including lower safety standards for foods imported from Canada and Mexico. In the past year alone, the U.S. has suffered outbreaks of foodborne illness due to E. coli-contaminated beef from Canada and salmonella-contaminated papayas from Mexico.
The "harmonization" of U.S. and E.U. medical regulations could be particularly dangerous for consumers. The FDA is generally stricter than its European counterpart, so trade-driven changes are likely to weaken American health protections. For instance, Europe's relatively lax regulations for medical devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps has led to numerous fatalities in Europe, a problem the U.S. has avoided thanks in part to the FDA's oversight of these devices. The Transatlantic trade negotiations could put vital FDA protections like this in jeopardy and patients in harm's way.
"Protecting consumers' interests and well-being must be a primary measure of whether this trade agreement should be adopted. Otherwise we could see more food recalls, unsafe medical devices, and a host of other potential dangers," said Nasima Hossain, Public Health Advocate for U.S. PIRG. "The Obama Administration should act immediately to create a Consumer Advisory Committee to address consumer rights and interests in these negotiations."