Saturday

17th Nov 2018

Opinion

EU and US both threatened by secret trade talks

  • "A key fear is a dispute mechanism enabling corporations to claim potentially unlimited damages in secret courts" (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Negotiations between the United States and European Union for a free trade agreement, which resume this week in Washington, represent one of the biggest threats we have seen in our lifetimes to progress towards our vision of an environmentally sustainable and socially just world on our continents.

The deal – known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – is billed as the biggest bilateral free trade agreement in history.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

It is being touted as a means to boost trade and create jobs, but in reality the US already has free trade with Europe, and vice versa. Tariffs are already low and the exchange of goods and services is robust.

Our two organisations are both deeply concerned that the negotiating objectives for an agreement have little to do with free trade and everything to do with corporate power.

TTIP risks being a partnership of those who seek to prevent and roll-back democratically agreed safeguards in areas such as food and chemical safety, agriculture and energy.

What we fear the negotiations really aim for is a massive weakening of standards and regulations which are for the protection of people and our environment.

Such rules are branded ‘trade irritants’ making them seem like an annoying itch for the corporations which have to adhere to them. These companies would therefore like to see them removed, irrespective of the fact that the very reason for these rules’ creation is to protect citizens, consumers and nature.

Friends of the Earth US and Friends of the Earth Europe know what it is to be partners. We believe our governments should be partners too in building a more equitable and sustainable future. But our common analysis is that the TTIP is unlikely to do this.

For the time being we see corporations and financiers as the only partners. And we certainly don’t see citizens as partners when the details of the negotiations are being kept secret from the public.

This week’s talks, like the previous rounds, will happen behind closed doors. The negotiating texts will be kept secret from the public but not from the approximately 600 corporate representatives who have been named ‘cleared advisors’ for the United States.

Partnership for profits

More reason for our fear that this is a partnership for profits, not people or planet, is the provision of an ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ (ISDS) mechanism – perhaps the most dangerous TTIP negotiating objective.

This would enable corporations to claim potentially unlimited damages in secret courts or ‘arbitration panels’ if their profits are adversely affected by environmental or consumer regulations.

These investment suits are tried before business-friendly tribunals composed of corporate lawyers, bypass domestic courts and override the will of parliaments. Even expected future profits are compensable.

Under other existing investor-state agreements challenges to environmental policy are already being brought by oil and gas companies, mining operations, the nuclear industry, and pharmaceutical giants which deem that their investment potential and related profits are being damaged by regulatory or policy changes.

We believe there is much for American and European citizens to be concerned about in these trade talks – not least the ISDS.

Also at stake are regulations on genetically engineered products, food safety, toxic chemicals, highly polluting fuels, and many others.

The EU’s fuel quality directive, which disadvantages tar sands oil and other fuels with a high carbon footprint, is on US Trade Representative Mike Froman’s hit list. And food safety measures have been targeted as trade barriers, including restrictions on imports of beef treated with growth hormones, chicken washed in chlorine and meat produced with growth stimulants.

Friends of the Earth in Europe and the United States are determined to alert policymakers and the people about the deception and danger in the current course of the TTIP negotiations. We are calling for an end to the secrecy.

People, not corporations, should determine the future of the transatlantic economy, including what kind of future we want for our children.

Magda Stoczkiewicz is director of Friends of the Earth Europe and Erich Pica is president of Friends of the Earth United States.

EU court backs commission on trade secrecy

The EU’s top court has ruled in favour of the European Commission’s right to protect the confidentiality of trade documents, in a move that will frustrate campaign groups seeking greater public access to EU trade negotiations.

US steps in to clean up Cyprus

Cyprus has overlooked undertakings on bank probity made to the EU in the context of the 2013 bailout - but it might prove harder to get the US off its back.

News in Brief

  1. US warns EU banks and firms against trading with Iran
  2. Merkel urged Romania not to move embassy to Jerusalem
  3. Protesters call for Czech leader to step down
  4. Former German chancellor labelled 'enemy' of Ukraine
  5. French lead opposition to Brexit deal on fisheries
  6. Private accounts of Danske Bank employees investigated
  7. UK's May defends Brexit deal to MPs, after ministers resign
  8. Brexit MP calls for 'no confidence' vote on May

Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Brexit dominates EU affairs This WEEK
  2. How the EU commission got tunnel vision on self-driving cars
  3. No-confidence calls against May put Brexit deal in doubt
  4. Key points of the Brexit deal (if it ever comes into effect)
  5. Romania heaps scorn on 'revolting' EU criticism
  6. US steps in to clean up Cyprus
  7. 'Decisive progress' on Brexit as British cabinet backs deal
  8. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM puts Orban on spot

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us