Here’s an American article about the Promises and Perils of the TTIP. That’s the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
As I write this in January 2014, the TTIP is being negotiated. The article I’ve just linked to is from October last year but it remains worth a read. I’ll pick out a few points.
In that article, Karen Hansen-Kuhn and Steve Suppan of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy tell us that we’re already trading quite freely across the Pond. ‘Tariff barriers between the U.S. and EU are already low. The bigger challenge—and the real target—is the very different approaches of the U.S. and EU to regulation… It is likely that investor-state dispute resolution (ISDR), which gives investors the right to sue governments for compensation over rules that affect their expected profits, will be included in TTIP… [although] the U.S. and EU legal systems… [already have no problem] resolving such complaints… It is also reasonable to assume… that the EU’s reliance on the Precautionary Principle will be squarely on the agenda in discussions on food safety, environmental protection and public health…
‘Differing food safety standards have been the subject of trade disputes between the U.S. and EU for years. Complaints lodged at the World Trade Organization (WTO) by the U.S. government have focused on EU restrictions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and veterinary growth hormones that are deemed safe in the U.S. but are banned in some EU member states…
‘There is also pressure to lower EU standards on meats and poultry, including those on hormone-treated beef, controversial growth promotion hormones, such as ractopamine and chlorinated rinses of poultry carcasses. The EU, for its part, is seeking to overturn limits on its exports of beef despite concerns over EU member state controls to prevent Mad Cow Disease [Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy].’
Ms Hansen-Kuhn and Dr Suppan conclude, ‘If this is truly to be a “high standards” agreement, and if there is any hope that “harmonization” does not mean shifting standards towards the lowest common denominator, then the U.S. and EU governments need to start from a thorough redefinition of “regulatory coherence” that prioritizes human and environmental well-being over market openings. That seems entirely improbable given statements made by the governments up to this point. Improbable isn’t the same thing as impossible though. The current approach is a political choice; alternatives are entirely possible. If not, and the talks are to continue along the lines of other recent trade agreements, then civil society and policymakers should seriously consider putting a halt to the TTIP.’
From where I’m watching, the ‘lowest common denominator’ looks like a serious risk. Therefore, a ‘halt to the TTIP’ looks like quite a good idea.