TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership might be something that you’ve heard mentioned recently in the news. However, coverage has been minimal, so just in case you’ve completely missed it, the biggest bi-lateral trade deal ever negotiated is currently going on behind closed doors, with drastic repercussions for our public services, our environment and our health. Not to mention the illusion of a democratic EU.
On Monday 14th July, an exclusive group of attendees convened for the sixth round of TTIP negotiations, intent on achieving ‘regulatory coherence’ between the US and EU. Alarmingly, the negotiating text has been hidden from the press and public, whilst hundreds of corporate lobbyists – ‘cleared advisors’ according to the US – have access to both the text and the negotiators. With no participation from workers, consumers or environmentalists, this relinquishing of political decision making to corporate interests has the potential to hugely affect all of our lives.
Unsurprisingly, it seems that no-one is lobbying more than agribusiness; a real illustration of the power dynamics that underpin our food systems, and a strong indication of just what is at stake for the environment and our food security.
Tariff barriers between the US and EU are already low, so these negotiations are focused solely on regulatory ‘barriers’ to transatlantic trade and investment. Put bluntly, both EU and US corporate lobby groups, and their political allies, view the TTIP as an opportunity to over-ride the rules and regulations that might hinder their ability to trade.
However, these ‘barriers’ happen to be the only rules in place to protect public health and the environment, i.e. food safety regulations, GMO labelling and restrictions on use of chemicals. These safeguards, which are generally considered to be stronger in the EU than in the US, are on the line unless we move quickly to get public interests back on the agenda. The only time to influence the substance of the agreement is before it is completed.
UK takes the lead
On Saturday 12th July, thousands took to the streets across the UK to set the ball rolling in the first national No TTIP day of action. Edinburgh hosted a Robot ‘Dance Off’, York staged ‘Fat Cats and their Puppets’, and Brighton, a ‘boxing match’ – big business vs. citizen’s rights. Who won? Well that’s still to be decided.
In London, protesters from both sides of the Atlantic marched from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in Westminster, to Europe House, London’s European Commission Representation.
The crowd of roughly one thousand, included strong representation from Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace UK, the Land Workers’ Alliance, UK food Group, Unison the UK public service union, Sum of US, War on Want, World Development Movement, Occupy London, We Own it and comedian, Mark Thomas.
Amidst speakers, workshops, performers and puppeteers, there were participant activities such as a football match where the public services took on the corporations on the ultimate un-level playing field. Match reports complained that the corporate lawyers broke all the rules and the referee constantly picked fault with the public services.
Despite the turnout, there was total silence in coverage from the main stream press (other than Russia Today) and no government response whatsoever.
Adam Payne from the Land Workers’ Alliance stressed: ‘We need to build on the number of people involved and increase public participation. We need to create more of a movement, and we really need food and farming unions to stand together on this one.’
Whilst TTIP could affect a broad range of issues, the impact of the negotiations on the evolution of agricultural markets and our food systems is especially worrying. Adam stated that: ‘The reality of what could happen is far reaching for UK consumers and farmers; the intent of harmonising negotiations means a race to the bottom for UK farming. The US has different standards on pesticides, growth hormones and, of course, GMOs. A relaxation of our standards would inevitably put consumers’ health and the environment at risk, whilst also having a huge adverse effect on farm incomes.’
Adam added that the regulations would equally have implications for future governments should they wish to transition to more sustainable or locally orientated farming systems, as they will be locked into long-term global trade relationships established during current negotiations.
Because both the US and EU have criticised localisation as a barrier to trade, negotiation outcomes also look likely to impact procurement policies involving local food. So the local procurement policies that have been encouraged in the move towards healthier foods in government programmes, i.e. the US’s Farm to School Programmes, which include bidding contract preferences for sustainable and locally grown foods, could be argued as a ‘barrier’ to global trade by multi-national corporations.
In order to provide a more in depth public discussion on TTIP food and agricultural issues, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) have been running a series of hour long webinars on the TTIP negotiation’s impact on the crucial elements of our food systems. We have been participating over the past few weeks, and on the 24th July our Policy Director, Richard Young will be speaking on the impact the TTIP could have on global efforts to combat antibiotic resistance.
Slides and YouTube videos of each talk are available in the links below.
One of the key arguments underway concerns the pressure to bring EU meat productions standards in-line with the US in ways that facilitate the expansion of industrial agriculture despite the risks to human and animal health and worker safety. A range of issues are on the table including the EU’s refusal to allow imports of chicken rinsed in chlorine, and the use of ractopamine, a EU banned artificial growth-hormone, in pork production. The first webinar considers the trade, food safety and labour rights issues involved in this debate.
On 16th June, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack cautioned EU members against raising health or safety risks when banning the cultivation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The IATP’s second webinar looks at how the debate over GMOs is intensifying as agribusiness’ on both sides of the Atlantic attempt to weaken standards on genetically modified organisms and their labelling during the TTIP negotiations. The webinar looks at the trade, food safety and consumer issues involved in this debate.
24th July: Register now
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest threats to public health. The dependency of current intensive livestock production systems on antibiotics is a priority issue for civil society movements on both sides of the Atlantic. Campaigns for prudent use of antibiotics in the livestock sector in both the EU and USA seek to provide solutions to this urgent challenge. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership threatens progress made in reducing AMR and promotes even more intensive livestock systems. The US and the EU need to strengthen standards that prevent the use of antibiotics in the food system.
The movement to stop TTIP is growing and there are many ways to get involved:
· Help us to share the message of Saturday’s No TTIP National Day of Action and increase momentum for the next march on the 11th October, in advance of Food Day, held on the 24th October. The outcome will affect all of our lives. Visit www.nottip.org.uk and take up the #NOTTIP hashtag.
· Attend the #noTTIP planning meeting on Saturday 2nd August. Reflect on the 12th July day of action, find out more about TTIP and what happened during the recent round of negotiations and plan where next for the #noTTIP movement, including building for the international day of action on 11th October.
Read up on the TTIP, you have the right to know
· This booklet, The TTIP: A Charter for Deregulation, an attack on Jobs an End to Democracy written by John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, gives a brief but comprehensive overview of the issues at stake, explaining how TTIP will affect the lives of all of us if it comes into force. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation tries to cast some light on this secretly negotiated treaty and to encourage resistance, by bringing together experts, civil society and politicians in workshops and conferences in Europe and the USA.
· In Promises and Perils of the TTIP: Negotiating a Transatlantic Agricultural Market, which the IATP are co-publishing with the Heinrich Boell Foundation, the IATP outline some of the key differences between rules in the US and EU that will likely be on the negotiating table during the trade talks.
· There are extensive resources on the websites of all who took part in the No TTIP demonstration above.
Images provided by World Development Movement