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Interview: Green solidarity on the U.S.-Europe trade deal

Posted Mar. 30, 2015 / Posted by: Adam Russell

Through the Friends of the Earth International network, we have been collaborating with Friends of the Earth Europe and all the Friends of the Earth national affiliates across the continent to influence public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic by exposing the corrupt influence Big Oil, Wall Street, global agricultural giants, and other selfish interest groups pushing for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade deal between the U.S. and EU. This is an essential part of our campaign to stop the Fast Track bill, to be considered in Congress any day, which would grease the skids for the TTIP and the TPP deal with Japan and other Pacific nations.

Gwen Buck and Bill Waren

The big money interests and polluting industries have falsely claimed that European opponents of TTIP are anti-American. In reply, Gwen Buck of Friends of the Earth England, Wales, and Northern Ireland asked me to sit for an interview to explain why a broad coalition of environmental and public interest groups in the United States share exactly the same views as our partners in Europe.

Below are a few excerpts from the interview, edited for length. Read the full version here.

Gwen Buck: What would be the implications for the United States … if the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership went ahead?

Bill Waren: We do have some idea of what is in TTIP negotiating text thanks to the somewhat more open European process, and thanks to whistle-blowers who have revealed secret documents.

The TTIP regulatory review provisions worry me most. They have nothing to do with trade and everything to do with setting up institutions and procedures to effect deregulation. There would …be inappropriate use of business-friendly, cost-benefit analysis. This process gives disproportionate weight to quantitative data and economic costs, while diminishing the importance of qualitative benefits such as health and protecting wild places… If an environmental benefit cannot be measured in dollars and cents, then its value is unfairly discounted. For example, food safety standards would be lowered if the undervalued “benefit” of protecting the food we eat is outweighed by the “cost” to corporate profits. How does one put a price, discounted to “present value,” on a human life or nature itself?

…The investment chapter in TTIP shows that firms would be able to sue governments for potentially billions in financial damages if environmental or public health regulations interfere with future profits. This would discourage positive government action like restricting oil and gas drilling, imposing pollution controls, limiting the use of fracking, or even stopping construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

TTIP would stymie congressional action to more effectively regulate chemicals associated with breast cancer, autism and infertility. More immediately, it could undermine effective toxic chemical regulation currently on the books in California and other states. TTIP would also undercut GMO labeling initiatives in the U.S.

Gwen Buck: With the UN Paris climate talks happening this year, what impact will TTIP have on the U.S.’s ability to limit its carbon emissions?

Bill Waren: As a result of the boom in environmentally-destructive fracking, the fastest-growing natural gas and oil producer in the world is now the United States.  Dirty energy companies are some of the businesses pushing for TTIP to be ratified. This would help them export to global markets, where they can demand higher prices for coal and gas. Meanwhile, Canada wants to transport tar sands oil through the Keystone XL pipeline, to refineries in Texas, which if TTIP goes ahead, will be shipped overseas where they can sell it far more profitably than in the U.S.

Recently leaked EU documents exposed the EU’s intention to increase US oil and gas exports to Europe. EU negotiators at TTIP talks want the U.S. to scrap its current legal prohibition on crude oil exports and its licensing restrictions on natural gas exports. TTIP would encourage increased US coal, oil and gas exports to the world that will fuel continued global warming. The huge extra demand for fossil fuels as a result of TTIP threatens to turn the U.S. into an EU fracking colony.

Gwen Buck: The U.S. is currently in the process of negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership as well as TTIP. What has been the general public’s reaction to these new mega trade deals and what are people’s concerns?

Bill Waren: The big  focus of public concern in the U.S. today is Fast Track trade promotion legislation that may come up for a vote in the U.S. Congress imminently. Fast Track legislation would sharply limit Congress’ role in trade policy by forcing TPP and TTIP deals through on a quick up or down vote, with little debate and no amendments. … In effect, a vote to approve Fast Track is a vote to approve TTIP and TPP unseen -- because the public and press are denied access to the secret negotiating text.

Read the rest of the interview on Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland's blog.

Image: Gwen Buck, left, Bill Waren, right.

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