06 June 2014
30 Reasons why Greens oppose TTIP
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership raises a whole host of concerns in a variety of areas. In no particular order, here's a list of some of the reasons why we are currently against the deal.
Simon McKeagney, Editor
1. Because it is not about trade
Traditional trade agreements focus on the removal of tariffs, but as these are already so low between the EU and US, it will not be the main point of the deal. Instead, 80% of the projected ‘wins’ will come from removing ‘non-tariff barriers to trade’ (NTBs). These NTBs are trade-speak code for often hard-won standards and regulations. Greens believe the drive to remove essential standards will negatively impact both regions in a variety of ways.
2. Because the agenda has been captured by corporations
On both sides of the Atlantic, the main stakeholders consulted have been lobbyists representing some of the biggest multinational corporations in the world. In Brussels over 93% of preparatory meetings were with business groups according to documents garnered from a freedom of information request by the Corporate Europe Observatory, while in Washington, the trade advisory system is dominated by industry pressure groups, accounting for 85% of seats. Concerns regarding the risks to the environment, workers or health and safety regulation are therefore secondary.
3. Because it is highly secretive
A year into negotiations and only a select number of technocrats from the European Commission have inside knowledge of the talks, amid loud calls for greater transparency from all corners of civil society. Both the Council and the European Parliament have been left out of the negotiating process, as too has the Congress and the Senate in the US. The original EU position texts are only accessible to the Council, members of the INTA committee and handful of other committee chairs in the European Parliament. No one has seen the US proposals. To make things even less transparent, once both sides begin writing joint-proposals for a final text, it is likely that even less oversight will be granted to EU institutions. Only a dozen or so MEPs will have access to "Secured Reading Rooms" and they will be forbidden from taking notes or sharing with the public what they have read.
4. Because the people have the right to know
National and state parliaments, as well as and citizens in Europe and the US are being left in the dark too. If TTIP includes plans to change regulations which have been fought for for decades, our parliaments and our citizens need to know what is at stake. Transparent negotiations are essential, a feeling felt by many in the US too. Recently Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is quoted as saying:
“I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed."
5. Because the numbers don’t add up
Proponents have continued to use misleading figures from the Commission-funded CEPR impact assessment report on TTIP. It claims that the EU's economy could benefit by 119 billion euros a year and the US economy could gain an extra 95 billion a year - with gains of 545 euros for each EU family. However, the CEPR study goes on to reveal that such gains will only be felt after 2027, and only if a comprehensive agreement is reached, meaning that half of all ‘actionable’ NTBs are removed, which is highly unrealistic. A number of esteemed economists believe political leaders are overstating the positives, which in reality may only amount to 0.05% increase in GDP in the EU. Watch Monitor's report on 'TTIP's numbers fairytale'.
6. Because the promise of jobs is dishonest
The EU is desperate to find solutions to the ongoing job crisis. Although the effects of TTIP may not be felt for over a decade, it is being oversold as the answer to all of Europe's problems. Moreover, the deal is likely to fundamentally shift the direction of global trade, inevitably affecting existing jobs in all regions. There is no guarantee that the impact will always be positive.
In the Commission's Impact Assessment Report on the future of EU-US trade relations they admit that TTIP is likely to bring "prolonged and substantial” dislocation to European workers as a result of this shake up: "..there will be sectors that will be shedding workers and that the reemployment of these workers in the expanding sectors is not automatic..” According to the economist Dean Baker of the US based Center for Economic and Policy research:
‘Implying that a deal that raises GDP by 0.4 or 0.5 percent 13 years out means "job-creating opportunities for workers on both continents" is just dishonest. The increment to annual growth is on the order of 0.03 percentage points…In addition, there are reasons to believe the growth effect could go in the opposite direction.’
7. Because investors will be able to sue states for laws they dislike
Under the proposed investor protection chapter, the Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement would allow investors to sue EU countries for loss of future profits if a country creates new regulation that could impact that investment. ISDS has been criticised as the worst judicial system in the world, and raises many concerns, including fair and equitable access to justice. Neither governments, civil society or national businesses can take a case against investors under such international tribunals. The mechanism is only open to multinational companies operating in another jurisdiction, and has already led to multinationals suing countries for regulating in a host of environmental, health and safety areas. EU-US subsidiaries operating in each other's regions amount to 75,000, leaving many to believe that such ISDS lawsuits could be come a regular fixture under TTIP, threatening government's ability to legislate.
Philip Morris sues Uruguay over proposed public health regulations
Swedish energy company Vattenfall sues Germany for phasing out nuclear
Lone Pine Resources sues Canada for its moratorium on fracking.
8. Because corporations will get a chance to screen future legislation
TTIP also envisions the establishment of a Regulatory Cooperation Council that ‘would allow early intervention by US and EU regulators in each other’s rule making processes’. In December 2013 Corporate Europe Observatory disclosed documents revealing that US and EU business groups have lobbied for such a formal structure for years. They warn that such a body could result in business lobbies imposing undue influence through privileged access at this early stage of policymaking. Businesses then may be able to influence laws that could impact our social, environmental and consumer standards before they’re even discussed at national level.
9. Because it formalises never ending negotiations
It is no secret that negotiators on both sides have found some issues “challenging” in recent months. But many of the most difficult areas could be left unaddressed until after the deal is officially signed. Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht wants TTIP to be “a living agreement that promotes greater compatibility of our regimes and accelerates the development of global approaches.” In essence, politically sensitive issues could be worked out at a later date, once the public focus on TTIP has dissipated. A 'living agreement' could also mean that new policy changes could be influenced on an on-going basis without the need to renegotiate the deal.
10. Because it threatens governments' right to make decisions
Whether through the threat of being sued under ISDS for legislating, early interventions by a Regulatory Cooperation Council, or continuous revision of regulations under plans for a ‘living agreement’, TTIP will have an inevitable ‘cooling effect’ on national governments ability to legislate for the public good. International trade agreements should not surpass the rights of nations to democratically make decisions.
11. Because it is already negatively impacting EU decision making
The EU has already seen the cooling effect TTIP has had on EU laws. Several proposals have been disrupted, shelved or pushed through as a consequence of the pending agreement.
The Fuel Quality Directive has mysteriously vanished from the Commission’s agenda, while in the ENVI committee of the European Parliament, a resolution against the treatment of meats with lactic acid, something that in normal circumstances would’ve clearly been supported, failed due to intense and unprecedented lobbying by the Commission. Proposals on labelling requirements for meat from cloned animals were drastically watered down in 2013, even though all three institutions had already agreed in principle in spring 2011. And recently the European Food Safety Authority issued an overall positive assessment of peroxyacetic acid solutions as a sanitary wash for poultry carcasses and meat, something which a 2004 EU regulation prohibits, but may now form the basis of allowing such processed meat to be sold here. It is understood that all of these issues would have been handled very differently if TTIP negotiations were not taking place.
In a recent TV interview, MEP D. Roth-Behrendt from the ENVI committee said:
“Why can a high public servant of the Commission’s Directorate-General on Trade come to me and urge me “please, please, please do not reject this law, let it pass because otherwise the US will not trust us and will abandon the negotiations.” What about this very weak proposed cloning legislation that has been tabled in the midst of the negotiations on free trade? That already shows how things will be run from now on.”
12. Because taxpayers will foot the bill
Under the Investor State Dispute Mechanism (ISDS) taxpayers will pay out compensation costs to multinationals who take cases against EU countries if they feel their future profits will be affected by new or existing legislation. The German government are currently being sued for billions by the Swedish company Vattenfall under an ISDS mechanism, for Germany's decision to phase out nuclear energy, for example. This could become the norm under TTIP.
Moreover, there are a number of other indirect costs that are not factored into the Commission's reports as described in a recent study by ÖFSE:
'Costs of unemployment, including long term unemployment, might be substantial, especially during the 10 year transition period of TTIP. Based on projected job displacement in one of the studies of 0.4 – 1.1 million, our rough (and conservative) calculation suggests implied costs of €5 – €14 billion for unemployment benefits, excluding costs for re-training and skills-acquisition. In addition, foregone public income from taxes and social contributions from unemployment might accrue to €4 – €10 billion'
The study also writes that the removal of non-trade-barriers could have undue cost implications for countries through loss of revenue that has not been calculated by previous studies.
'Most importantly, the elimination of NTMs will result in a potential welfare loss to society, to the extent that this elimination threatens public policy goals (e.g. consumer safety, public health, environmental safety). The analysis of NTMs in the studies, particularly Ecorys, completely ignores these problems.'
13. Because industry demands are pretty scary
Whether it is the US meat industry calling for the EU to lift bans on ractopamine in pork, hormone injected beef or chlorine-washed chicken or some of the biggest financial institutions in the City of London hoping to challenge new US financial regulations, the corporate wish list of standards they want to see removed under TTIP is frightening. The chances of “levelling up” regulations is therefore highly unlikely, and Greens fear we’ll see the worst lowest-common denominator standards prevailing in the end.
14. Because addressing climate change needs to be taken seriously
In May 2014, the Huffington Post revealed a draft EU negotiating text calling for the US export of “coal, crude oil, oil products, natural gas, whether liquefied or not, and electrical energy” under TTIP. Climate activists worry the deal could lock both sides of the Atlantic into continued and intensified fossil fuel use, impeding the move to much needed renewable energy sources. To make matters worse, TTIP may prohibit state or national support for renewable programs through the elimination of ‘local content requirements’ also known as buy-local rules, further undermining efforts to transition to a low carbon economy. While according to a report by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung:
‘..greater [EU-US trade] cooperation is not predicted to result in reduced GHG emissions. On the contrary, the most ambitious TTIP scenario predicts an increase of 11.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions: 3.9 million tonnes in the US, 3.6 million tonnes in the EU and 4.3 million tonnes in China due to carbon leakage attributable to its “less environment-friendly product techniques”’
At the same time, the most recent IPCC report on climate change tells us we ‘need to use all available tools and measures to meet the challenge of climate change’. TTIP may do more damage than good in tackling the climate crisis.
15. Because workers could bear the brunt
Since negotiations began, some of the largest trade unions in Europe and the US have raised their concerns against the deal. Many believe it could put downward pressure on wages, export jobs abroad and weaken labour rights and safety standards that are already under pressure due to the economic downturn. The EU generally has higher labour standards than the US, who have not ratified six of the core International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions. Thus the prospect of ‘levelling up’ standards for workers is again, highly unlikely.
16. Because public services are in jeopardy
The further liberalisation of public services on both sides of the Atlantic is a concern for many, with opponents believing TTIP could lock countries into deeper privatisation of essential public services. There have been calls to exclude education from the deal altogether, citing concerns that US companies are “for profit”, leaving the education sector in Europe more “exposed to increased pressures of commercialisation and privatisation” On healthcare, similar worries have been raised, particularly in the UK, that US healthcare giants could be given “irreversible" powers under planned competition rules:
“… the rules "completely undermine" the ability of the NHS to "plan and optimise" local services, adding that a treaty which made it easier for US healthcare giants to secure contracts would further "unpick the NHS fabric”.
17. Because supporting local economies is a good thing
The EU wants to prohibit US states from continuing with programs which encourage support for local economic activity at state level, including the transition to renewables or local organic farming for school nutrition programs. The Commission argues that such laws are discriminatory and act as “localisation barriers to trade.” But we believe efforts to support local businesses are essential for the creation of robust and vibrant local economies. According to Sharon Treat, a State Legislator from Maine:
‘In our state of Maine, which is a rather low-income state with limited economic opportunity (especially now that our textile and shoe factories have almost all moved offshore following NAFTA and other trade agreements), a bright spot is local food initiatives. Our land use and procurement policies are encouraging young people to take up farming, and developing new markets for farmers to sell their produce to schools, hospitals, and other institutions.’
18. Because the Precautionary Principle is one of Europe’s greatest achievements
US negotiators on behalf of industry are doing all in their power to undermine the precautionary principle, a cornerstone of EU policymaking, calling it “unscientific”. Such efforts by business are well established, as Colin Macilwain of Nature magazine has explained:
‘The term 'sound science' may sound innocuous — comforting, even. Don't be fooled. In policy circles, its use is now pretty-much confined to the determined band of brothers who make their livings trying to roll back government regulation, by fair means or foul.’
The precautionary principle is based on the idea that if a risk or danger to humans, animals or the environment cannot be ruled out in a product or process, that product or process is banned. You need to be able to demonstrate that there is absolutely no risk before you can put something on the market. In the US, the opposite is true - you need to be able to prove that something is hazardous before it is taken off the shelf. This is a fundamental difference, and explains why in the US, asbestos has yet to be banned. In the EU we expect to be protected before something happens. In the US, they expect to be able to sue when something does.
If the US successfully argues that the precautionary principle is "unscientific, ..burdensome, discriminatory, ..unwarranted and create significant barriers to U.S. exports", then we will see our hard-won standards dismantled in front of our eyes.
19. Because a “win-win” deal is flawed
Proponents of the deal talk of a “win-win” scenario for both sides, but fail to mention the global impacts of moving away from multilateral trade talks. Even conservative studies indicate that TTIP could negatively impact many of the developing nations we claim to be helping. Countries in North Africa, for instance, whose fragile economies rely on exports to Europe, are set to see a drop in real income per capita of anything between 2.8 and 4.0% according to the Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Under an ambitious agreement scenario, the majority of other nations outside the EU and US will be negatively affected by the redirection of trade, with border nations like Mexico set to see a drop of up to 7.2%. Internal trade between certain EU countries could drop as much as 40%, which could have serious implications for EU economic integration, on which the European project was based.
20. Because data rights should not be further undermined
Data privacy is not on the table, but data-flows are covered under the eCommerce chapter. Data protection regimes in the US and EU ‘are starkly different and unbalanced’, with Europe viewing them as a basic right, and the US as a barrier to trade. The recent NSA scandal and EU government surveillance have highlighted the global need for high level data protection standards. Data flows need to remain outside TTIP until both the US and the EU can deliver comprehensive data protection measures. European Digital Rights Institute (EDRi) writes:
‘Inclusion of free flows of data in TTIP will make privacy an issue to be decided by TTIP dispute settlement tribunals. The EU will lose leverage needed to protect privacy. In addition, investor-to-state dispute settlement may further undermine privacy.’
21. Because consumer groups are worried
Efforts by big business to remove non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade will negatively impact consumers, too. NTBs can be anything from more comprehensive food labelling, that identifies where and how food was made, to online privacy measures, to regulation banning certain chemicals from cosmetics, toys and other products. The erosion of such protections are not to the benefit of consumers, regardless of whether costs are reduced or not.
22. Because our food standards are at risk
One of the most prominent controversies surrounding TTIP has been the impact on our food. The EU are adamant that it will not allow hormone-injected beef, chicken washed in chlorine baths, and pork treated with ractopomine from the US, enter the EU market. The widespread use of antibiotics on US farms is also worrying. Such harmful processes could negatively impact the food industry, as such food is produced more cheaply and at a lower quality. However, US negotiators, at the behest of US corporations, continue to push for these products to be included in TTIP. The agreement could also make it much harder for EU member states to make up their own mind on accepting GMO crops, for example. Many organisations in the US do not want to export its broken food system to the EU, and are doing what they can to reverse agri-industry trends of mass production of sub-standard food.
Read 10 reasons why TTIP is bad for good food and farming (US Institute for Agriculture and Trade)
Read 'Trade Matters' TTIP and its impacts on food and farming (Center for Food Safety)
23. Because negotiation means trade-offs between grossly different things
The Commission is preparing for give-and-take concessions as part of these talks, meaning we are likely to lose some battles in order to gain wins in other chapters. So although we aim to protect our food standards, nothing is off the table in negotiations. The EU hopes to gain more in procurement, which may mean sacrifices in agriculture, according to Hiddo Houben, an EU official in the trade and agriculture section of the delegation in Washington who said in April:
"We are, I think at least in political terms, going to be giving more in agriculture than we get ... and in procurement we are hoping to get more that we give, because our market is more open today. At least that's what we would argue."
The Greens have legitimate concerns that this approach could see key EU standards pawned off for other gains in transatlantic trade.
24. Because it could freeze progress on new safety standards for harmful chemicals
Recent revelations by the Center for International Environmental Law and ClientEarth suggest that the chemical industry on both sides of the Atlantic have teamed up to ‘exploit regulatory differences between the two parties to slow regulatory developments at all levels, prevent the regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and obstruct efforts to promote substitution of all harmful substances with safer alternatives.’ They believe that such proposals could ‘freeze progress in regulating toxic chemicals, create an industry bypass around democracy, give commercial interests and trade precedence over the protection of human health and the environment, stifle innovation in safer chemicals and Impede global action on toxic chemicals.’ Not a particularly citizen-friendly list.
Read ‘Toxic partnership’ A critique of the ACC-CEFIC proposal for trans-Atlantic cooperation on chemicals (CIEL & ClientEarth)
Read NGOs fear TTIP clauses will affect EU chemicals regulation (Euractiv)
25. Because access to affordable medicine is a human right
Campaigners are concerned that the pharmaceutical industry’s wish list for TTIP will undermine public health policy and negatively impact citizen’s access to affordable medicine. Drug companies are hoping to expand periods of monopoly through patents and other intellectual property measures, while there are suggestions that it aims to undermine regulations set by European Member States to protect public health. Such moves are not in the public interest and will could increase the cost of medicines.
At a recent conference, Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General is quoted discussing TTIP and TPP saying: “If these agreements open trade yet close access to affordable medicines, we have to ask: is this really progress at all?”
26. Because corporate law firms are cashing in
The number of investor claims against states has exploded in recent years, with a few dozen in the early 90s, to nearly 600 cases in 2013 alone. According to Corporate Europe Observatory, this has been great news for some of the biggest corporate law firms in the world:
‘…as the number of investor-state disputes has grown, investment arbitration has become a money-making machine in its own right. Today, there are a number of law firms and arbitrators whose business model depends on companies suing states. Hence they are constantly encouraging their corporate clients to sue – for example, when a country adopts measures to fight an economic crisis.’
We don’t believe law firms should be profiting through corporate attempts to halt a country’s right to legislate.
27. Because we don't need more deregulation in the financial sector
The EU are pushing for the inclusion regulatory cooperation for financial services in TTIP, a move strongly resisted by the US. US negotiators believe the inclusion of financial services regulation may risk watering down new standards set by the 2010 Dodd Frank law aimed at enhancing oversight and stability of the US financial system. We Greens fully support the Dodd Frank law, and are against attempts to undermine such financial regulation. With Europe edging out of an economic crisis, we strongly oppose the inclusion of regulatory cooperation of financial services in TTIP which at present could only result in weakening regulation and oversight on both sides of the Atlantic. This is not in the best interest of citizens in Europe or the US. At a time when we should be doing all in our power to steady our financial systems, the last thing we need is to expose either side of the Atlantic to more undue risk.
28. Because our leaders are ignoring citizen concerns
Although controversy over TTIP continues to build, our political leaders remain committed to pursuing a comprehensive agreement, with David Cameron calling it a “once in a generation prize.” Hundreds of open letters from civil society remain unaddressed. Calls for transparency have largely fallen on deaf ears, as Members of the Council were unwilling to make the EU TTIP mandate public in May. Meanwhile the Commission seems adamant to suppress public-opposition, as seen with the unprecedented arrests of over 250 peaceful protestors at an anti-TTIP demonstration in Brussels recently, including a number of Green Parliamentary assistants. The Greens will continue to work to hold our leaders to account on TTIP and work to ensure these issues are not ignored.
29. Because resistance is growing and it needs our support
In recent months we’ve reported the growing grassroots campaigns in Italy, Belgium, Germany, as well as campaigns in France and the UK. With so many issues at risk under TTIP, the Greens have made it a priority to tackle these issues head on. But there’s still a lot to do to build awareness amongst citizens across Europe and the US.
30. Because if you won't take our word for it, perhaps these organisations might convince you
Hundreds of civil society organisations, NGOs, trade unions, consumer groups and watchdogs are also raising their concerns on both sides of the Atlantic. As we have showcased, TTIP raises legitimate and substantial worries on a wide variety of issues that could impact your daily life. Here are just some of the organisations actively working on TTIP.