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TTIP negotiations: the reign of opacity

18 February 2016

It is still difficult to know anything about the ongoing negotiations. More than ever opacity reigns. Mrs Malmström is concerned about the many leaks and declares that henceforth the Member States will no longer have access to all the information.

Beyond a displayed optimism and the excuse of a technical writing step on the work already done, policymakers are far behind their original schedule. Nothing will be consolidated at the end of Barack Obama’s term, and obviously, TTIP will take center stage in the upcoming German federal elections (2017); This means that more than ever it is important to remain mobilized, to communicate and to inform farmers, peasants, consumers and citizens on the dangers of this agreement.

Tariffs: no progress to date. The United States generally refuse to recognize meat as a “sensitive” sector. In the case of Europe they say that they would accept quotas and a deregulation of limited time and of defined volumes, if, prior to this, the European Union abandons its hygiene standards.

For wine and spirits the US refuse to open their market. In contrast they are pressuring to export their agricultural, food and fish industries’ foods to Europe; Also very offensive in the lumber sector.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards: The USA defend the principle of scientific evidence as the sole reference (rather than the precautionary principle in Europe). They would like “technical” questions to be referred to technical committees or to ISDS arbitrations, where these questions are subject to later negotiations on regulatory cooperation. On pesticides and the rights of intellectual property, no written proposals were made from the American side. The harmonization advocated is so complicated that at first the negotiators do their best to postpone the discussions and to move them into other areas.

Geographical indications are a matter where US negotiators completely lack understanding. The commission is holding out so far but already in-house, some industrials (German) fear that agricultural appellations of southern Europe hinder their flexibility to export.

Regulatory cooperation: Europe is in a hurry to move forward on this issue while the US slow down the establishment of mechanisms that could escape them. Until now industrials and the US Congress have a right to prior scrutiny of these procedures.

Rights that do not exist in Europe, with a European parliament with no real initiative …

Institutionally parliamentary sovereignty between the two entities as well as between member states (EU and USA) is so different that an agreement appears impossible.

We have to benefit from these difficulties. This gives us time and confirms our belief that this agreement has no use: to recall, the US are already Europe’s largest trading partner, including in agriculture. Citizen mobilizations on food security and on the indications of origin bear everywhere their fruit amongst European citizens (see report on the Food and Agriculture Working Group in July written by Andrea). Yet all organizations and movements fighting against this project are silent when it comes to agriculture. (ISDS, regulatory cooperation, local governments absorb all the forces of our allies) We as European farmers and peasants have to carry these arguments to the general public knowledge.

The mobilization days on the 15th, 16th and 17th of October are an exceptional opportunity to be visible. Our Belgian colleagues of MIG, MAP and FUGEA will be present.

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