Proposed Plans for US/EU Trade Deal Would Weaken Health, Consumer, Worker, Environmental Protections

May 12, 2014


Washington, DC – According to a leaked position paper and statements by trade officials, current proposals being floated as part of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, also known as “TAFTA”) negotiations would grant foreign governments and corporations an increased opportunity to influence public protections in both the European Union and the United States. This would include standards related to food safety, toxic chemicals, occupational health, and the protection of the environment.

In response, more than 170 environmental, health, labor, and consumer organizations are demanding detailed explanations from EU and US trade negotiators about proposals to address differences in their laws. The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, and Sierra Club are among the local, national, and international groups that are calling on negotiators to answer questions about the potential of TTIP to weaken health, consumer, worker, and environmental protections and that are urging full transparency on regulatory issues in the TTIP negotiations.

Under these proposals, regulators could use sweeping tools, such as “mutual recognition,” to address regulatory differences, which could erase higher levels of protection in the EU or the US and deter stronger standards in the future. States in the US and Member States in the EU would also be subject to onerous consultation procedures and trade impact-analyses. These tools would focus almost exclusively on impacts on trade and costs to corporations while ignoring the many benefits that standards and safeguards deliver for our health, safety, and overall quality of life.

A report published recently by CIEL and ClientEarth criticized the American Chemistry Council and the European Chemical Industry Council for proposals under TTIP to unravel recent progress by the European Union and states in the US, and to damage future prospects for protective legislation on toxic chemicals in the two trading blocs. “The toxic agenda of TTIP would prioritize international trade at the expense of human health, the environment, and democracy,” says Baskut Tuncak, an attorney at CIEL.

The trade benefits that negotiators are focused on paint a target on both the EU and US systems of standards and safeguards. A study by the European Commission on the potential economic impacts of the trade deal estimates that 80 percent of TTIP’s economic benefits would come from addressing regulatory differences between the EU and US.

“The top-down coordination of these measures through an institutional framework for transatlantic regulatory cooperation, we feel, would likely become a significant source of delay and preempt a state, a country, or region’s ability to maintain or establish stronger standards when consumers demand such or to respond to emerging technologies, new scientific information, preferred policies by the public, and urgent crises,” the groups said in a joint letter today.

Most major corporations in the United States and Europe have submitted public comments to the negotiators demanding weaker public safeguards in the name of international trade. In the letter, the public interest groups state that “one of our main concerns is that regulatory cooperation as suggested by negotiators will allow business groups and their lobbyists to exert undue influence in the regulatory process.”

“Proposals under TTIP would undermine our ability – on both sides of the Atlantic – to address the most urgent environmental challenges, such as climate change and toxic chemicals,” adds Tuncak. “The clock is ticking to address both these issues before it’s too late. Nothing short of full transparency on regulatory proposals under TTIP is sufficient.”

The letter and full list of signatories is available here.