WWOOFer Alex Lee is concerned about the possible impact of the proposed TTIP between Europe and the United States and asked us for an opportunity to share his views.
The EU and the US are currently negotiating a free trade deal called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This is set to have a huge impact on the businesses and regulations around food and growing on both sides of the Atlantic. There are many claiming that this would create tens of billions of pounds worth of trade, so what’s not to like?
One of the key aspects of the trade deal is to standardise regulations in the EU and the US. This might not sound particularly exciting; maybe it would be good if it was easier to do business across the Atlantic? But what this generally means is that regulations are lowered. For example, the US has low regulations on GMO crops, animal welfare standards and allows pesticides that the EU has declared dangerous. As such, with one single agreement, all countries in the EU could lose their ability to decide their own standards.
The EU commission has denied that food standards will be lowered, but Zac Goldsmith, MP and editor of the Ecologist, says ‘try telling that to US agro-business giants who have been engaging in an orgy of lobbying and who have very high expectations.’(1) Indeed, the food lobby are by far the biggest lobbyists on the TTIP agreement(2). Unfortunately, we don’t actually know what they are lobbying about, since, apart from a few leaked documents, the entire deal is being made in secret.
So what would happen if a country’s government decided to ban GMO crops after TTIP is agreed? Well there is a neat mechanism to ensure that multinationals don’t lose out too much to regulations because of something called the investor-to-state-dispute settlement(3). This means a corporation can sue a government for lost future profits if it puts up regulations that mean they cannot sell their products. ‘Countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland who are in trade agreements which include this kind of investor-state relationship have been sued 127 times and lost the equivalent money that could have employed 300,000 nurses for a year,’ Green MP Caroline Lucas has said(1).
Currently 350 groups and organisations have affiliated with the Stop TTIP movement. These range from Compassion in World Farming, the European Milk Board, and the Centre of Rural Studies and International Agriculture(4), while even major farming lobby COPA-COGECA(1) has problems with it. When even the National Farmer’s Union has some grave concerns about it lowering food standards, it’s time to look closely(5).
Last but not least: the headline claims of jobs and economic benefits that give governments the rationale for negotiating the deal turn out to be quite difficult to substantiate. The numbers are not supported by evidence. They are based on economic predictions, which are only that: predictions. Real academic studies show the jobs increase may be very small(6). Previous trade agreements have vastly overestimated the financial benefits – the North American Free Trade Agreement is estimated to have displaced 682,000 jobs, and 116,400 of these are likely to have been permanent job losses(7).
The impact of these trade talks means that small farmers’ jobs and livelihoods are at risk, as is our natural environment. There are a number of groups that are organising to prevent this trade deal from happening, such as
Stop TTIP stop-ttip.org
Global Justice www.globaljustice.org.uk,
while Corporate Europe corporateeurope.org is a good way to stay up to date on the issue.
If you feel strongly about the TTIP please get in touch and share your views by commenting below or using firstname.lastname@example.org. Are there other controversial ideas you would like to discuss with other members, or would like us to feature? Do let us know.
1 ‘Corporate wolves’ will exploit TTIP trade deal, MPs warned: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jan/15/corporate-wolves-warning-ttip–trade-deal
2 Corporate Europe, TTIP: A lose-lose deal for food and farming: http://corporateeurope.org/international-trade/2014/07/ttip-lose-lose-deal-food-and-farming
3 Wikipedia, Investor-state dispute settlement: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Investor-state_dispute_settlement
4 Stop TTIP, Supporting Organisations: https://stop-ttip.org/supporting-organisations/
5 National Farmer’s Union, NFU Weighs in on Trade Negotiations: http://www.nfu.org/news/251-international-policy/1753-nfu-weighs-in-on-trade-negotiations
6 International Business Times, TTIP: Politicians Must Stop Misleading Voters with ‘Fictional’ Figures: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/ttip-politicians-must-stop-misleading-voters-fictional-figures-1448432
7 Economic Policy Institute, US-Mexico Trade and Job Displacement After NAFTA: