Trading across the Pond

In June this year, my fellow blogger Noah Zerbe at Global Food Politics told us that transatlantic free trade was being negotiated. ‘The United States and the European Union [were then] negotiating a new free trade agreement known as… the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).’

I’m no economist but as I said in July, the TTIP affects everybody who relies on the land and sea. In other words, it affects us all.

Also in July, trade and finance experts Shayerah Ilias Akhtar and Vivian C Jones at the Congressional Research Service (Library of [the US] Congress) wrote on bilaterals.org (‘everything that’s not happening in the World Trade Organization (WTO)‘) about the Proposed TTIP ‘In Brief’.

You still here? Hope so. I picked out a few of Ms Askhtar’s and Ms Jones’ words.

‘The United States and the European Union… account for nearly half of world gross domestic product and 30% of global trade, and have investments of more than $3.7 trillion in each other’s economies… [but there are] regulatory, technical, and other barriers [I think they mean barriers to trade]…

‘The proposed TTIP… [could] be largest Free Trade Agreement ever negotiated by the United States… seek new or expanded commitments in areas such as regulatory coherence and “21st century” issues… [a bit like] the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)… [which is now] being negotiated… Although… other trading partners could [not immediately] join [the TTIP] (unlike the TPP), [it could be used] to present common approaches for the development of globally-relevant rules and standards in future multilateral trade negotiations…

‘Regulatory issues are… the core of the TTIP negotiations… most European consumers prefer “naturally produced” foods, while American consumers tend to be more accepting of products developed by alternative forms of agricultural production (eg genetically engineered [GE, also called genetically modified or GM] foods)… While EU regulators prefer a more precautionary approach leading to more stringent risk regulation, US officials tend to engage in science-based, cost-benefit analysis strategies…

‘Possible ways forward… include mutual recognition agreements… accept products or services… on a “tested once” criterion… approvals issued by each other’s relevant authorities… TTIP negotiations could result in the creation of a cooperative framework by which regulators on each side could develop standards and regulations for new products jointly…

‘TTIP [is] an opportunity to advance economic, political, and strategic interests… [but there are] differences on trade issues that have been longstanding “sticking points” in past efforts to deepen transatlantic ties.’

So there you have it. Noah and I have told you about some of the ways that our European leaders are cautious. Ms Askhtar and Ms Jones tell us about caution on the American side. I could take offence at their remark about European thinking not being ‘science-based’! Probably a good thing I didn’t choose a career in international politics, eh?

This brings me back to my concern about Monsanto’s much-vaunted admission of defeat about licences to sell GM seeds to European farmers. I still keep an open mind about GM. But I don’t want the TTIP to mean that there’s an open back door for Monsanto and other biotech companies to sneak through. If people want to trade GM seeds, I’d like ordinary voters like me to see the decisions being made.

The TTIP negotiations are due to start in October. There are a lot of closed doors but I’ll tell you what I find out.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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One Response to Trading across the Pond

  1. Pingback: Another GM maize may soon be grown in Europe | Science on the Land

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