Should we be concerned about the proposed Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership?

Europe and the UK stand to lose out massively from the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership

What is the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership, and what are the implications for us as Consumers?

Ben Goldsmith writes in the London Evening Standard:

When an online protest passes a million signatures, it starts to matter. When it passes two million, such a groundswell is just one element of the Europe-wide unease over the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The TTIP is an agreement under negotiation between the US and EU which includes reducing “non-tariff barriers to trade”. In practice, this will mean harmonising a wide range of regulations across the Atlantic — with evidence suggesting this will lead to much greater corporate power in the EU.

By going beyond tariff reduction and giving companies the power to challenge and shape local regulation, TTIP is more than a normal trade deal. As a result, opposition goes far beyond a knee-jerk response from the Left. Indeed, it is one of the few issues where Ukip finds itself voting alongside the Green Party.

The implications of TTIP are so wide-ranging — on jobs, health, public services, the environment and national sovereignty — that it is mobilising people across the political spectrum. And opposition is as much commercial as it is political.

The German “mittelstand” — more than a quarter of a million small and medium-sized enterprises — has vocally opposed it, while an Austrian “SMEs Against TTIP” platform has been joined by hundreds of companies in just one week.

It is the direct threat to consumers which is driving the greatest popular opposition. The numbers speak for themselves. For example, the ratio between the number of chemicals banned in US cosmetics and EU cosmetics is 1:100. That’s right: whereas more than 1,200 chemicals are banned for use in the EU, in the US the figure is just 12.

An equally frightening impact will be on food. As anyone who has visited the US knows, supermarket food there is full of growth hormones, sugar and chemicals. Improving food standards in Europe has been a long hard fight with direct benefit for consumers. Using TTIP, US food lobby groups are now pushing hard to reverse this progress across a wide range of areas including GM crops (and animal feed), cloned meat and the use of both hyper-chlorinated water and antibiotics in meat production.

Non-medicinal use of antibiotics have been banned in the EU since 2006, whereas in the US, 80 per cent of all antibiotics are pumped into industrially-farmed animals to promote growth and prevent infections resulting from hideous conditions.

This contributes to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which, according to the US Centres for Disease Control, leads to the deaths of 23,000 people a year. Fearful of ISDS compensation claims, EU governments may be pressurised to re-introduce such practices — an unthinkable outcome.

Or look at pharmaceuticals. According to US lobby groups, TTIP should be used to reverse European progress on transparency over clinical trial data. It may also be used to extend patent monopolies and block production of generic drugs — increasing cost for both developing countries and the NHS.

The US pharma industry is often criticised for putting profits ahead of ethics — leading, for example, to a quarter of the US population being on psychiatric drugs (including a million under-fives). If TTIP drives a cultural convergence with the US industry, the effects could be profoundly unwelcome.

For a piece of legislation with generational importance, the relative lack of public debate on TTIP in the UK is extraordinary.

TTIP is not a fringe issue but would mean seismic changes for the UK — rolling back regulation and significantly affecting the ability to introduce new legislation, thanks to the threat of ISDS claims. It is profoundly hypocritical of our current government to highlight threats to UK sovereignty while also promoting TTIP within Europe.

Rather than trying to hide the deal from the British public, ministers should facilitate a fuller debate — and, if such a debate demands it, include the suspension of TTIP in the package of reforms and opt-outs being demanded from the EU.

Excerpts taken from an article written by Ben Goldsmith (London Evening Standard, 30.06.15).  Ben Goldsmith is a financier and chairman of the Conservative Environment Network. He supports Artists Against TTIP.

Posted: Jul 2, 2015