Oceans & Forests Blog

EU-U.S. trade deal: Concerns grow, but secrecy and privileged access remain

Posted Mar. 14, 2014 / Posted by: Adam Russell

BRUSSELS - The latest round of trade negotiations between the EU and U.S. on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership end today with public disapproval growing stronger than ever. After another week of talks there is no more transparency about the content of the deal, and new evidence to suggest big business lobby groups are being given privileged access to the negotiating teams -- including business-dominated events, and meetings between chief negotiators and business groups [1].

Friends of the Earth Europe and 26 other organisations, including consumer groups, labor organisations and transparency and trade organisations, today launched a joint call for transparency towards the European Commission which is negotiating on behalf of the European bloc [2]. They are calling for the negotiating mandate, all the documents submitted by the EU and negotiation texts to be made public.

As it stands, Friends of the Earth Europe remains concerned the deal will trade away democracy in Europe, and safeguards that protect people and the environment.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe said: “After a week of behind-closed-door discussions, with privileged access for powerful multinationals, citizens have every right to be concerned about the kind of future this deal could lead to. All the negotiation texts must be published so that the public know what is on the table, and what impacts a deal will have on daily life in Europe.”

Civil society groups are highlighting the dangers of a controversial investor rights clause which would give foreign companies the right to sue governments. If included in a deal, the ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ mechanism could threaten the ability of states and local authorities to take preventative action to protect public health and the environment, for example by banning risky extraction technologies such as fracking [3].

In the EU, growing controversy has forced the European Commission to announce a public consultation on the investor rights clause.

Powerful multinationals, including agri-business, are currently lobbying for the deal to lead to weaker safeguards, under the guise of ‘regulatory coherence’, on issues related to food and chemical safety, and GM crops [4].

“Corporations are trying to dismantle important health and environmental regulations by arguing that they are trade barriers,” said Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth-U.S. “For example, this trade deal could force European consumers to accept risky genetically modified organisms and meat laden with growth hormones and drugs. It could also undermine European efforts to combat antibiotic resistance; a situation which is creating a public health crisis.”

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Contact:
Natacha Cingotti, corporate and transparency campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe, (FRE/EN), +32 (0)2 893 1023, natacha.cingotti@foeeurope.org
Sam Fleet, communications officer, Friends of the Earth Europe, (EN), +32 (0) 2893 1012, samuel.fleet@foeeurope.org
Michelle Chan, economic policy program director, Friends of the Earth U.S., +011 1 510-900-3141, mchan@foe.org

NOTES:

[1] Friends of the Earth Europe learned on Monday that the EU and U.S. chief negotiators and their respective negotiating teams attended a business-dominated reception in Brussels hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce: http://www.foeeurope.org/EU-US-trade-negotiators-deaf-transparency-120314

Friends of the Earth Europe found that out of 90 speakers at the TTIP Stakeholder Presentations Event, 58 represented business interests while only 32 represented civil society: http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/foee_ttip_stakeholder_speaker_analysis_org140314.pdf

[2] Civil society call, to Commissioner De Gucht, for full transparency about the EU-US trade negotiations: http://www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/foee_joint_ttip-transparency-call_march2014.pdf

[3] No fracking way: How the EU-U.S. trade deal risks expanding fracking in Europe and the U.S.: http://www.foeeurope.org/no-fracking-way-060314

[4] Toxic partnership: A critique of the ACC-CEFIC proposal for trans-Atlantic cooperation on chemicals: http://ciel.org/Publications/ToxicPartnership_Mar2014.pdf

Friends of the Earth U.S. -- Meat industry demands in the EU-US trade deal: http://www.foe.org/news/archives/2014-03-us-groups-voice-concerns-about-meat-industry-demands

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