Where’s your seat at the table?

Sure, your local American drug store may sell very European-sounding makeup, but that is where the similarity ends. The laws that determine which ingredients are allowed are very different: the European Union bans 1300 potentially-hazardous chemicals vs. a mere 11 banned under United States law. Toxic freedom!

By Baskut Tuncak, Senior Attorney Environmental Health Program
By Baskut Tuncak, Senior Attorney Environmental Health Program

Cosmetics Europe, which represents over 4000 individual cosmetics companies across the European Union, has been an active lobbyist in the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. They have submitted various recommendations for legislation that would have erased important differences between the US and EU when it comes to cosmetics.  Now, after having proposals rejected by the EU, they want a seat at the table to negotiate TTIP in person.

In their latest move, the industrial conglomeration wrote a letter to the European Commissioner for Trade Anna Cecilia Malmstrom, requesting a seat at the TTIP negotiation table:

In order to avoid a mis-balance between the two negotiation teams in the upcoming negotiation rounds, the composition of the EU negotiation team may need to be reinforced. In particular, we propose to add industry experts in the areas of safety assessment and in market control to complement the already well represented regulatory skill set.

The idea that TTIP negotiations need more industry expertise is ludicrous. These negotiations have been characterized by extreme secrecy.  Industry proposals continue to make their way into negotiating text. Meanwhile, the American public has no idea what changes President Obama might be negotiating about how laws are made in the US, and the EU wants to usurp the existing power of states in the US to enact stronger laws on toxic chemicals to fill the void left by the federal government. The level of industry influence in comparison to public participation is already absurdly un-democratic, and yet industry wants more influence over an agreement that would restrict how the US and EU protect people in their territories.

EU flagThe primary aim of TTIP is to iron out differences between the laws of the EU and US, so that industry doesn’t have to spend extra to comply with different laws. The problem is that these differences also represent higher levels of protection that protect workers, consumers, and the environment.  No one is proposing the elevation of protection standards to the highest level. Rather proposals aim to achieve the lowest common denominator.

Undoubtedly, TTIP will affect the cosmetics industry on both shores. Perhaps more importantly, TTIP will affect how much toxic exposure people in the European Union and the United States will be subjected to, yet public interest and civil society groups have not been granted the opportunity for meaningful public participation, unlike industry which has written draft sections of TTIP for negotiators to adopt wholesale if they chose.  Where is the public’s seat at the TTIP table?

Public participation is essential in a democratic society, but notably absent in TTIP.  The public, including public interest organizations, should have greater access to TTIP negotiations to ensure human health and the environment are not sacrificed in the interest of highly hypothetical corporate profits in this unprecedented trade deal.

Lets put an end to this nonsense.

Originally posted on January 21, 2015.