An unprecedented trade agreement is being negotiated between the European Union (EU) and the United States (US).
The proclaimed aim of the proposed Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is to increase trade between the two trading blocs through the minimization of technical barriers to trade (TBTs). According to economic estimates used by the European Commission, the chemicals sector would be the second biggest beneficiary of “full liberalization” through TTIP.1 For over a decade, the US government and the chemical industry have claimed that EU chemicals legislation is a major barrier to trade, due, in part, to the deep divergence in levels of protection afforded by the regulatory regimes in the two trading blocs.2
In advance of the December 2013 round of EU-US trade negotiations, the trans-Atlantic chemical industry secretly proposed draft text on regulatory co-operation for negotiators to consider including in TTIP.
The joint proposal by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) seeks to use TTIP as a mechanism to “address the potential non-tariff barriers that can arise from discordant regulatory measures”. While this may appear to be a reasonable aim on its surface, closer study of the proposal strongly suggests different motivations – to exploit regulatory differences between the two parties to slow regulatory developments at all levels, prevent the regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and obstruct efforts to promote substitution of all harmful substances with safer alternatives. Industry’s suggestion that its proposed “improvements” purport to involve no changes in the underlying statutory or regulatory requirements in either jurisdiction are, at best, wildly implausible and, at worst, deeply disingenuous.