The pending Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will likely spark a "race to the bottom" for national policies that regulate everything from the air we breath to the food we eat and, according to a new report, the controversial pact is already pushing European governments to loosen key food safety standards.
Put forth by the UK-based social justice organization Global Justice now, the report (pdf), published Sunday, highlights a component of the pact known as "regulatory cooperation" or "regulatory coherence," which seeks to establish common standards between the United States and the European Union.
Under the provision, notes the group, multinational corporations are granted the opportunity to influence any new regulation—amounting to a "blueprint for corporate domination."
"To most people regulations such as air pollution limits and food safety standards are common sense protections against dangerous threats," said report author Alex Scrivener, who works as a campaigns officer at Global Justice Now. "But to big business, these are little more than tiresome barriers to increasing profits."
Scrivener added that "Corporate lobbyists are pushing so hard for TTIP because this is one of the biggest chances they’ve ever had to systematically strip these protections away from citizens and consumers. TTIP isn’t really about trade, it’s about corporations rewriting the rule book as to how they’re allowed to operate."
The study, which comes a day before international delegates will meet in Miami, Florida for the next round of negotiations, finds that even though it has not been signed, the trade agreement is already driving EU regulators to loosen or abandon certain food standards.
According to report:
US officials successfully used the prospect of TTIP to bully the EU into abandoning plans to ban 31 dangerous pesticides with ingredients that have been shown to cause cancer and infertility.
A similar fate befell regulations around the treatment of beef with lactic acid. This was banned in Europe because of fears that the procedure was being used to conceal unhygienic practices. The ban was repealed by MEPs in the European Parliamentary Environment Public Health and Food Safety Committee after EU Commission officials openly suggested TTIP negotiations would be threatened if the ban wasn’t lifted.
On climate change, the European Fuel Quality Directive which would effectively ban Canadian tar sands oil has foundered in the face of strong US-Canadian lobbying around both TTIP and the EU-Canada CETA deal.
More generally, the EU’s Better Regulation programme has also been linked to TTIP. Better Regulation explicitly seeks to reduce the regulatory ‘burden’, delaying the implementation of new rules on things like safe levels of chemicals. Trade unions say that Better Regulation has already been responsible for 100,000 deaths from cancer.
These new insights on the corporate-friendly agreement comes as European leaders faces growing public opposition to the deal.
Last week, an estimated 250,000 protested in Berlin and more than three million have signed a petition calling on the European Commission to abandon negotiations over the TTIP and drop the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.