Sunday

27th Sep 2020

Trade deal 'won't loosen standards,' EU and US officials ay

  • (Photo: Wikipedia)

The latest round of talks on an EU-US trade deal concluded on Friday (15 November) with negotiators playing down suggestions that an accord would undercut a raft of rules on consumer protection and environmental standards.

Despite fresh revelations about the extent of phone-hacking and surveillance by the US National Security Agency, data protection was not on the agenda of the second round of talks, which was delayed by the US government "shutdown" in October.

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The meeting instead focused on energy and raw materials, together with more general discussions on regulatory and technical standards.

Earlier, a number of consumer groups and NGOs had voiced fears that an agreement could water down EU standards on environmental protection and food safety, including genetically modified products.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, said that she was “more concerned than ever that big businesses see the deal as a chance to get rid of laws that have been put in place to protect citizens and the environment."

She added: “It is unbelievable that the EU and US are discussing plans to allow companies to sue governments if they see their profits affected by a democratically agreed decision. It is no exaggeration to say that this is a direct attack on democracy."

At a press conference on Friday afternoon (15 November), negotiators insisted that any deal will not be a race to the bottom.

"These negotiations are not - and I repeat, are not - about lowering the standards or about globalising our high standards of consumer, environment or other protections," said the EU's chief negotiator, Ignacio Garcia Bercero.

Both sides were tight-lipped on progress, although US chief negotiator Dan Mullaney told reporters that "nothing has been taken off the table so far," including financial services.

The EU is keen to increase regulatory coherence between the two jurisdictions to improve market access for its firms, despite scepticism on the part of the US treasury.

Mullaney confirmed that formal talks on financial markets would take place.

"The EU has made it clear that it wants to have a conservation of this and we are engaging in that conversation," he said.

The two sides noted they would publish a state of play document following the next round of talks, expected to take place in Washington on 16 December.

But while enthusiasm for an accord between two sides - which have a combined global market share of more than 40 percent - remains undimmed, the timeline is set to be loosened.

EU officials accept that a deal will not be struck in 2014, with 2015 the earliest possible date for a final agreement, which will require the support of the European Parliament and the US Congress.

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