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TTIP: Corporate Interests Against Citizens

The regulatory approaches of the EU and the US are fundamentally different. In the EU, environmental-and consumer protection functions according to the principle of precaution. State regulations protect the environment and health. The obligation to provide evidence that a product is harmless lies with the manufacturer or importer... Lower cost standards will prevail in free competition when standards between the EU and the US are harmonized.
TTIP: CORPORATE INTERESTS AGAINST CITIZENS

By Maja Volland

[This article published in March 2015 is translated from the German on the Internet,  https://www.blaetter.de/archiv/jahrgaenge/2015/maerz/ttip-politik-gegen-den-buerger.]


If "we" do not set the rules of the game for globalization, others will set the rules. That is a popular argument of advocates of the planned free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union (TTIP). They argue "sustainability" and high standards in the globalized economy will be guaranteed with the agreement. [1] A common free trade agreement would set global standards considering the combined economic power of the EU and the US.

The hook is only that the TTIP from the view of consumers is completely unsuited to guarantee high norms for protecting humans and nature. Rather the free trade agreement includes extensive liberalization- and deregulation measures. Markets should be extensively deregulated and opened for corporations except for a few sensitive economic areas. If TTIP is realized in its planned form, the priority of competition logic would be carried out in areas that regulate public goods. This concerns environmental- and consumer protection. The chlorinated chicken cited on all sides is the least of the problems.

SUSTAINABILITY AS A TRADE BARRIER

The EU will prevent laws from arising in the legislative process that inhibit trade. So the EU commission proposes that the other trading partner be included early on in crafting laws as revealed in a draft for a TTIP chapter that recently reached the public. [2] All legal projects must be presented to the other side at least once a year. If either the EU or the US expresses doubts as to its effects on trade, a consultation about the law could be immediately demanded. On the request of the EU commission, this regulation should also be valid for laws of EU member states and German states. Private actors like domestic and foreign firms should be consulted on the many legal projects.

This would be a massive incursion in democratic legislative processes. Laws must then be first harmonized with the trading partner before the EU Parliament judges them. Laws could be delayed or slowed down when they run counter to economic interests. The example of EU fuel quality guidelines gives a foretaste for the consequences of this proposal of the EU commission. Originally the goal of this guideline was to rate and deal with fuels corresponding to their climate-friendliness. However the guideline was greatly watered down on pressure of Canadian and US governments for whose industry the climatically-harmful oil from the tar sands is very important. The guideline has not entered into effect today on account of their resistance. [3]

If the proposal of the EU commission is carried out, other areas of EU-climate- and consumer protection could be sacrificed. So the US trade commissioner Michael Froman [4] in a 2014 report on technical trade barriers raised objections on planned regulations on potentially injurious environmental hormones (so-called endocrine disruptors), greenhouse gases or the guideline on renewable energy.

In addition the EU commission wants to debate already existing standards with its trading partner. Its goals are "compatible regulations" [5] - to fulfill these standards. Far-reaching interventions in European or national law on this side or beyond the Atlantic are unavoidable. The regulatory approaches of the EU and the US are fundamentally different.

In the EU, environmental- and consumer protection functions according to the principle of precaution. The state has the mission to guarantee regulations protecting the environment and health. The state has the right to regulate a product with a suspected risk. The obligation to provide evidence that a product is harmless lies with the manufacturer or importer. In the United States, every product is regarded as harmless until unequivocal counter-evidence is presented to an authority. These divergent approaches are expressed in different strict regulations regarding chemicals, food and genetic engineering. Thus binding rules do not exist for approving or labeling of genetic engineering in food. Meat can be produced from hormone fattening, chlorinated chickens and cloning without any labeling. In other areas, the laws in the US are stricter than in the EU - as in the regulation of the financial sector. Thus simply rejecting US standards is not central, as critical voices against the TTIP assume. The lower cost standard will prevail in free competition when standards between the EU and the United States are harmonized or acknowledge each other at the expense of the environment and sustainability.




FREER TRADE AT THE EXPENSE OF THE CLIMATE

The proposal of the EU commission for an energy- and raw material chapter in the TTIP is further evidence that the TTIP serves economic interests first of all and not safeguarding higher protective standards. This proposal facilitates the export of fossil raw materials from the United States. At present all US exports of fossil raw materials must be approved by American authorities. The EU commission wants to suspend this export restriction so export licenses in the future will be granted automatically for all energy products including fossil fuels.

The consequences of such deregulation could be dramatic. The EU could codify its energy policy on fossil fuels in the long term. With the cancellation of US export restrictions, the demand for fossil energy will probably increase and the current boom of unconventional production of oil and gas by fracking will be re-fueled in the US.

At the same time the creative possibilities of governments in energy policy will be greatly minimized. The proposal earmarks prohibiting all regulations that prescribe a minimum share of locally produced renewable energy. In many countries, regulations are used to build their own sector. A prohibition would make such local projects considerably more difficult. Decentralized and local solutions are very important for developing renewable energy. In contrast to central supply approaches, decentralized solutions make possible a transparent planning tailored to needs and diminish large-scale incursions in nature.

Energy firms according to the EU proposal cannot be forced to share their intellectual property. This clause could hinder programs promoting development of renewable energy in technically far-less developed countries. For this, readiness for knowledge transfer is central.

As a result, the EU commission threatens its own climate-protection goals like reducing greenhouse emissions. To reach these goals, the government must be able to act, form its energy policy and restrict the promotion and consumption of fossil energy.

Instead of focusing on climate goals, the proposal of the EU commission is identical with the goals of the EU raw material strategy - whose core is securing access to raw materials. To this end, trade barriers, export restrictions and other price-distorting regulations for raw materials should be removed.

Given all this, the TTIP was not conceived as an instrument to protect "sustainability" and high standards in the globalized economy. Rather TTIP threatens to disable or drive back democratic and regulatory processes - for the benefit of corporate interests. Standards fall under the wheel while businesses gain more and more influence on political decisions. On the other hand, a politics in the sense of the environment and consumers must set the rules of the game for global trade very differently - namely oriented in the interests and needs of the majority of its citizens. But the TTIP is now miles away from this.

NOTES

[1] Vgl. etwa Sigmar Gabriel, Wir müssen TTIP entmystifizieren, in: „Vorwärts", 22. 8.2014.
[2] Vgl. EU-US TTIP Negotiations. Draft proposal, 28.1.2015, S. 6, www.stop-ttip.org.
[3] Vgl. Thomas Fritz, CETA: Blaupause der Deregulierung, in: „Blätter", 1/2015, S. 25-28.
[4] United States Trade Representative, Report on Technical Barriers to Trade 2014, Washington D.C. 2014, S. 47, www.ustr.gov.
[5] Draft proposal, a.a.O., S. 10.
[6] Vgl. For the attention of the trade policy committee, dok. unter  http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/TTIPNonPaper.pdf, S. 3.

RELATED LINKS:

 http://www.alternativetrademandate.org
 http://www.citizen.org
John Hilary, TTIP: Destruction of Jobs and Democracy, February 2015, 58 pp
 link to www.rosalux.de

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