The Environmental Audit Committee has launched an inquiry into the TTIP trade deal over fears it could weaken rules to protect food and the environment
While the UK Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee investigates the potential impact of the TTIP agreement on food and environmental regulations, please ensure you have seen the excellent video on the TTIP by John Hilary of War On Want and circulate the link to all your contacts.
MPs to investigate TTIP trade deal's impact on environmental protections
The Guardian, 9 Jan 2015
* The Environmental Audit Committee has launched an inquiry into the contentious transatlantic free trade agreement over fears it could weaken rules to protect food and the environment
The impact of the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal on environmental protections in Europe is to be investigated by the UK parliament. MPs are to examine if the agreement could weaken regulations on chemical and pesticide use, oil and gas extraction and genetically modified food.
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a planned free trade agreement between the European Union and the US, which its backers say will boost both economies.
But critics fear it will weaken regulations and place the interests of companies above those of citizens, with 1.25 million people signing a petition against TTIP. The ongoing negotiations have been criticised for their secrecy, prompting the European Commission to release a slew of documents on Wednesday, including some negotiating texts.
“Greater transatlantic trade and investment could be beneficial for Britain, but we must monitor these talks carefully to ensure they are not trading-in the rules that keep our food and environment safe,” said Joan Walley MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which launched its inquiry on Friday. “We will be investigating whether it really is possible to sign such a deal and at the same time safeguard European environmental standards, as negotiators have claimed.”
A recent report from the Center for International Environmental Law (Ciel) argues that the European chemical industry wants the US system of chemical risk assessment to be adopted, which the group says would allow the use of over 80 pesticides currently banned in the EU. Other campaigners say US biotech companies want to use TTIP to open EU borders to imports of genetically modified food.
Proponents of TTIP argue that many of the fears – such as fake Cornish pasties flooding in from the US – are no more than scaremongering. The European commission maintains that foods such as US hormone-fed beef, GM crops and chlorine-washed chickens will not be allowed in Europe for as long as they are banned in the EU.
Trevor Hutchings, at WWF UK, said the US-EU trading relationship is the largest in the world and as a result places significant pressure on the environment. TTIP should improve, not reduce, environmental protection, he said: “Unfortunately a number of TTIP provisions have the potential to undermine existing environmental standards.”
“The US chemical regulatory system is a mess – it clearly does not work at all. The EU system is not perfect but it is a hell of a lot better,” said Michael Warhurst, executive director at Chemtrust, a UK charity. “Any suggestion of regulatory harmonisation is not going to mean the US starts restricting more chemicals. We know chemicals are being discharged into rivers that harm the environment, such as feminising fish. Many of these are not banned in the US but are restricted at some level in the EU.”
Samuel Lowe, at Friends of the Earth, said: “With the potential for essential environmental and food standards to be discarded as ‘trade irritants’, the TTIP presents a unique challenge to the health of our environment. The EAC should scrutinise the proposals and ensure that these serious concerns are no longer brushed under the carpet.”
Friends of the Earth is expected to be among those giving evidence to the inquiry, as is the British American Business group, but the latter declined to comment on the EAC investigation.