Dear Friends of ELIANT,
“TTIP – Increased Trade for Better Living?” This was the title of the conference organised by ELIANT and its Alliance partner Demeter International in Brussels on the 15th and 16th June together with European Public Health Alliance (EPHA). Our aim was to initiate a constructive dialogue between civil society organisations, the TTIP negotiators and political decision makers. The conference outcomes were a series of recommendations for decision makers. The first of these recommendations (see below) were presented to the European Commission and political decision makers in Brussels and then published on 23rd June at the 'European Trade Policy Day'.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
The European Commission and the United States are currently negotiating this free trade agreement. The aim of TTIP is to make trade and investment easier between the EU and USA and wherever possible to harmonise their respective laws and regulations. The negotiations cover all the important economic sectors such as industry, health provision (including medicines and medical products), food and agriculture. Supporters hope this will encourage economic growth on both sides of the Atlantic, produce more jobs and by creating the largest internal market in the world with over 800 million consumers, secure a competitive advantage in the global economy.
The concerns of ELIANT
Michaela Glöckler president of ELIANT, addressed the panel on 'TTIP negotiations and civil society concerns' and laid out ELIANT's concerns. She argued that it was in the public interest to include more civil society stakeholders in the TTIP negotiations. If a transparent international tribunal for Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS) were to be established, civil society had an important role to play. ELIANT and its partners are advocating a fair and democratic trade agreement in Brussels that takes account of the true needs of citizens in Europe and the USA. The European values of cultural diversity, freedom of choice and the continued availability of choice must be upheld. They are put at risk if the TTIP negotiations take place without reference to them.
Many civil society organisations are deeply worried that TTIP could undermine our democratic laws and rights. Most notorious in this respect are the plans for Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS). These would give foreign corporations the right to sue the host Government within an unofficial international court setting and operating without transparency and behind closed doors.
The other big worry concerns TTIP’s objectives in relation to regulations and standards. No one objects to the mutual recognition and harmonisation of standards in the car or engineering industries since these bring clear benefits to both producer and consumer. Where they affect food, nutrition and medicines however, the harmonisation of US and EU standards becomes problematic. Food regulations in the EU are based on the precautionary principle in complete contrast to those in the US. The EU is not yet willing to give up this approach. With regard to rules and regulations there are many other examples which judged solely from the perspective of easing trade, would be inadequate and even fatal.
The recommendations of ELIANT
The aim of the conference was to provide decision makers with a list of concrete recommendations for developing better and more just international trading relationships that can benefit both society and the environment. Here are the most important points on our list:
- In a democratic society there is no justification for keeping such far reaching trade negotiations secret. Citizens and their elected representatives must be kept abreast of the negotiations as they proceed and be informed of their consequences.
- Instead of giving up sovereignty over our product standards, we should aim to improve and protect them using good examples and advising our trading partners regarding best practice. A good example of this is the concept of 'from producer to consumer' (farm to fork).
- Agriculture should be excluded from TTIP. Trade agreements should affirm the sovereign right of trading partners to decide whether the import of particular products should be allowed, in accordance with the precautionary principle that is valid in Europe. An independent scientific assessment should ascertain any risk or uncertainty. Further relevant socio-economic and ecological consequences for agriculture must also be considered when making such a decision.
- Health services are not like other services: The fundamental principle of universal health provision is non-negotiable. It is therefore vital that both public and privately financed health provision is excluded from TTIP.
- ISDS undermines the principle of democracy and its progress and hence the sovereignty of society; it also discriminates against local business. It should therefore not be part of TTIP.
Dear Friends of ELIANT, we intend to continue our campaign regarding TTIP. ELIANT aims to keep a close eye on the negotiations and defend and protect the interests of civil society by engaging in a constructive dialogue with the institutions of the EU. To carry out this vital work we need your financial support. We will continue to keep you informed of our ongoing work and thank you most warmly for your interest. We are very grateful for your help and support.
With warm greetings
on behalf of the ELIANT Carrying group
Dr. med. Michaela Glöckler