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TTIP, a Matter of Transparency

By Raul Cazan //

European citizens’ greatest concern is not related to Russian aggression in the East, nor to the terrible and barbaric Islamic State, not even to creating jobs and public investment; they are concerned with safeguards related to consumer’s rights in food products and preservation of the environment.

Funnily, this was triggered by the EU-US free trade negotiations (known as TTIP). A number of groups initiated a public consultation on investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the TTIP.

The consultation presented itself as a key opportunity for the Commission to come forward with a fully transparent process and not allow anonymized or secret submissions.

The public consultation that marked the summer of 2014 has likely drawn over 100,000 responses from all over Europe, a record number for a public consultation. The primary goal of the consultation was to ask Europeans ‘whether the EU’s proposed approach for TTIP achieves the right balance between protecting investors and safeguarding the EU’s right and ability to regulate in the public interest’.

Therefore, in the end, Europeans are not merely scared of their food standards being demeaned in state-corporate trade-offs, but of the utter lack of transparency in these matters.

Jos Dings, T&E’s Director and member of the EU’s TTIP advisory group, commented in a press release: “This consultation will show the depth of opposition of EU civil society to ISDS. The Commission must fully disclose all public contributions. Europeans deserve to know what the public thinks about investor protection rules.”

Marco Lambertini, the new head of WWF International declared for 2C at the Green Week in Brussels that “we do understand that this is potentially a very important agreement between two major economic blocks, but we do ask both parties, not just the European Union but also the American administration to be extremely serious about ensuring that environmental standards are embedded to the agreement.” What is the risk?


“A pre-trade agreement without specific environmental safeguards could undermine the progress on both countries’ environmental legislation. So that is a serious stance that we take, we are watching the progress very carefully, and want to make sure that these safeguards are specifically mentioned,” Lambertini added.

A lower environmentally charged normative might pass in the negotiations in the detriment of the more protective ones. “This is what we want to avoid! We should not take it as a done deal; I do not think it is a done deal – the European people and the American people from different perspectives are in the end very very protective and concerned about their environmental legislation. If things go into the wrong direction we will mobilize a major movement of dissent in the EU and in the US if at any stage environmental issues will be undermined by this trade agreement. We will push on both sides to make sure this is not the outcome,”ended Lambertini.

When it comes to environmental standards, Environment Commissioner Potocnik addressed a certain European arrogance and underlined the fact that some American states have more detailed and advanced environmental regulation than the EU. Indeed, states such as California or Vermont should make the EU blush when referred to their environmental legislation and standards. When the issue of ISDS is being discussed, however, European officials pass the subject from one to another.

Additives and pesticides

Besides U.S. interests to sell their corn, soy, pork or chicken, the TTIP will “undermine European methods of risk assessment and the precautionary approach, which is fundamental to protect the environment and the health of Europeans,” mentioned an early Greenpeace press release.

The more stringent EU limits for pesticides and additives might also have to suffer.

However, Wim Debeuckelaere, Head of Sector on Food Additives, Food Enzymes, Flavourings – Directorate-General for Health and Consumers (SANCO) disagrees. “We, (Europeans, n.n.), should not be scared because for international trade we have the so called Codex Alimentarius, which is an act where all traders from all countries are negotiating standards, particularly general standards for food additives. The Commission is representing therein the 28 Member States. I can tell you we have quite tough negotiations, but we are doing it very successfully. More and more, the way the EU is regulating food additives is taken as example. And why is that? Because the European system is very transparent,” he asserted at the Green Week.

Meanwhile, a growing protest movement is forming within the European Parliament led by the Greens. The greatest concern stays with ISDS. Its clauses allow businesses to bypass national court systems and sue governments directly, in special arbitration panels, over measures that can jeopardize future profits – typically laws designed to protect the public.

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