Leaked Trade Deal Chapter Reveals Corporate-Friendly Subversion of Public Health, Food Safety

A protest in London against the TTIP. (Photo: flickr/cc/World Development Movement)

Leaked Trade Deal Chapter Reveals Corporate-Friendly Subversion of Public Health, Food Safety

'Full disclosure' necessary for non-corporate public to influence contents of secretive TTIP agreement, analysis concludes

A leaked chapter of the secret US-EU trade negotiation known as the TTIP was released Thursday by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), along with an accompanying analysis which finds that public health and food safety could be imperiled if the text under negotiation becomes law.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is one of three so-called "Free Trade" deals being negotiated mostly in secret between the U.S. and various trade partners. Only negotiators of the TTIP and cleared advisors--almost exclusively corporate representatives--have been allowed to see the specifics of the agreement.

Dated June 27, the leaked chapter regards Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues, which are those related to food safety as well as animal and plant health.

According to the IATP's analysis of the leaked text, the document doesn't describe "everything about where negotiations are headed on food safety,"--it does reveal "enough to raise serious concerns" for those concerned about strong stanards and public health.

The main problem with making such negotiations secret, according to the analysis, is that trade policy inherently "requires that all national regulations protecting public health, the environment and worker safety, be subject to a 'least trade restrictive' requirement," which without proper oversight leads to a natural undermining of regulations related to consumer safety.

Following that line of thinking, the IATP argues that the leaked chapter "clearly indicates negotiators continue to subordinate SPS regulations to the object of maximizing trade." One example cited is that the text follows U.S. protocols that do not require entry inspections and testing for food (which are relatively stringent in the E.U), meaning "food contamination outbreaks will be harder to trace to their origin, and liability harder to assess."

"Import re-inspection and testing at port of entry, traditionally the last step in food safety management to verify that other programs are working, will disappear under this draft of the SPS chapter," according to the IATP's analysis.

Additionally, while the chapter contains a section that addresses animal welfare--and member countries would be permitted to pass laws on animal welfare--those laws could not be extended to the import of products from abused animals.

"While many key details regarding things like GMOs are still hidden, it's clear public health is losing out to corporate interests in a big way," said IATP's Dr. Steve Suppan, author of the analysis. "Moreover, it's an affront to democracy that the public need rely on leaked documents to find out how these agreements could affect health and safety."

Recently, European opposition to the deal has been growing, particularly regarding the possible undermining of European food standards that are far stricter around GMOs and animal growth hormones . Earlier in July, more than 100 notable French academics, activists, and cultural celebrities attempted to bring attention to these concerns by signing onto a petition against the TTIP.

"It's these same merchants to whom we've given the keys to the house. Now we're adding a few more keys to their ring," comedian and activist Christophe Aleveque told the French daily Le Parisian. "There must be a firewall, a little bit of control, to make sure humans are a bit more at the centre of our concerns."

The IATP analysis echoes Aleveque's belief, also stating that as long as the contents of the negotiations are "only revealed in the occasional leaked text," considerations of the human cost of the negotiations will be sidelined. Calling for transparency, the analysis concludes "the opportunity for the non-corporate public to influence the terms of the trade policy that affects their lives begins with timely and full disclosure of the draft negotiating texts and preparatory documents. "

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