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TTIP: no trade-offs in trade deal, say environment, public health and food safety MEPs


The negotiations under way on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could provide an opportunity to set a path towards high global standards for the protection of the environment and public and animal health. However, the objective of enhancing trade should not come at a price of lowering standards in these areas, said committee MEPs in an opinion adopted on Tuesday. MEPs list a number of areas where progress could be made, such as the protection of geographical indications, tackling antimicrobial resistance, pest management and safety of pharmaceutical products and medical devices.

"It would have been unthinkable for the environment committee not to reach a majority vote on a critical report on TTIP, since ours is the parliamentary committee that has secured robust legal protection for people, public health and ecosystems over past decades. This vote supports the public interest and citizens and does not reflect in any way anti-American sentiment nor is it anti-trade. But as elected servants of citizens and the public interest, we cannot afford to sacrifice certain European safeguards on the altar of free trade," said the lead MEP, Bart Staes (Greens/EFA, BE).

In their opinion, adopted by 59 votes to 8, with 2 abstentions, the MEPs say that trade and investment are not goals in themselves but should constitute a means to raise standards of living, improve well-being and public health and ensure full employment and the sustainable use of resources.

The committee calls on the European Commission to ensure that there are no trade-offs between economic goals and public health, food safety, animal welfare and the environment. The Commission should recognize that in areas where the EU and the US have very different rules, there will be no agreement, they add. Regulatory cooperation between the US and the EU should therefore be limited to clearly specified sectorial areas.

Any agreement should not lead to a lowering of existing environmental, health and food safety standards, say MEPs, or the setting of future ones, especially in areas where standards are very different in the US and the EU, such as in the field of chemicals (REACH and endocrine disruptors), GMOs or cloning. 

More cooperation needed to protect geographical indications, tackle antimicrobial resistance…

However, the committee lists a number of areas where a common approach, regulatory cooperation or mutual recognition should be reached. These include the recognition and protection of all European designations of origin and geographical indications (PDOs and PGIs), pest management, reduction of antibiotics in live-stock farming, animal identification systems, green public procurement, the safety of pharmaceutical products and medical devices, and the uniform introduction of an improved test cycle for light vehicles.

… but some areas should not be compromised

Other standards, say the MEPs, should be considered as fundamental and must not be compromised, in the area of pesticides, endocrine disruptors, animal welfare, the EU integrated approach to food safety, food information for consumers, clinical trials, the organisation of national health systems, cosmetics, or the achievement of the EU climate and energy targets.

The committee calls on the Commission to ensure that the technical barriers to trade (TBT) chapter in the TTIP does not restrict the options of the EU and its member states to adopt measures aimed at reducing consumption of certain products such as tobacco, foods high in fat, salt and sugar and the harmful use of alcohol.

Investor-state dispute settlement

The committee also calls on the Commission to oppose the inclusion of ISDS in the TTIP. “It should be up to the courts of the EU and/or of the member states providing effective legal protection based on democratic legitimacy to decide all expectable dispute cases,” they say.

Other trade issues

The MEPs say that the importing into the EU of poultry meat treated with antimicrobial solutions containing sodium hypochlorite should be prevented. They call on the US to lift the ban on beef imports from the EU.

Next steps

The opinion is to be forwarded to the lead committee, namely the international trade committee, which will adopt its own report in May.