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Pan-EU civil society coalition rejects US-EU free trade deal process

21 May 2014

With the fifth round of negotiations under way between 19th-23rd May in Arlington/USA, a fundamental change in the negotiating on the EU-US free trade agreement is being demanded by an EU-wide coalition of 120 groups in a joint statement released today.

The environmental groups, social movements, consumer rights groups, democracy advocate organisations and unions are opposing the corporate agenda of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – TTIP (or TAFTA, Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement).

The comprehensive TTIP is set to affect food safety, digital rights, social and labour standards and environmental protection. The statement highlights what is unacceptable in both the agreement and the negotiating process – and what European civil society groups want instead. The organisations reject:

• the lack of transparency and democratic process in the TTIP negotiations

• the lowering of standards inherent in the agreement,

• the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provision allowing foreign

corporations to sue member state governments and the EU

• the proposed anti-democratic governance structure, the Regulatory Cooperation Council, for an ongoing ‘harmonising’ of regulations and procedures

“TTIP is basically about corporate rights and control versus people’s rights and democratic control. It threatens to affect a broad range of issues. The strength of our EU-wide coalition is in linking our various struggles and making the big picture visible’ says Johannes Lauterbach from Attac Germany.

TTIP is being negotiated between the European Commission, acting on behalf of member states, and the US government. With US-EU tariffs already low on goods, the main thrust of TTIP is to lower standards, regulations and approval procedures which protect health and safety but are called ‘trade’ irritants’ by those promoting and negotiating the deal. The proposed Investor State Dispute Settlement provision (‘ISDS’) poses a particular threat to democratic governance, according to the broad civil society coalition.

“Clearly the aim is to lower existing regulations to the advantage of big business. The majority of farmers will see incomes reduced, and even more small farmers will be forced from their land. With protections reduced, and beef with hormones and GMOs on their plate, consumers won’t be able to say anything.” added Geneviève Savigny of European smallholders’ movement, European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC).

“Creating a transatlantic common market is core to the grand liberalisation agenda for the European and US economies. TTIP threatens to repeat the errors of the Rome Treaty: The EU is revealing itself to be a machine which puts the workers of its member countries in competition with each other and is a driving force for social dumping.”, said Wolf Jäcklein of the French trade union CGT.

“While other countries are dumping ISDS, the corporate-driven EU Commission is trying to tie us permanently into it. The breadth of resistance to ISDS, including non-government organisations, environment and consumer groups, unions and governments shows that ISDS not acceptable.” says Linda Kaucher from StopTTIP UK.

The coalition is demanding a complete rethinking of the treaty, putting citizens and the environment first with, at the minimum, transparent and democratic process, the removal of any ISDS or regulatory cooperation council provision, no deregulation of standards or further deregulation or privatisation of public services, the promotion of environmentally sustainable agricultural practices and the retention of public authorities’ political power.

“We wholeheartedly reject TTIP and the idea that further liberalisation is good for either the environment or the economy. Europe needs stronger social safety nets, more public ownership, higher standards, greater human and animal rights and increased environmental protection.” says Joe Mobbs of the French citizens’ collective Les Engraineurs.

The 21st May release of the joint statement coincides with the fifth round of negotiations and a day of action outside Washington DC, in Arlington, Virginia, where the negotiations are taking place. The coalition expresses solidarity with American counterparts protesting the free trade agreement. The European coalition has already established a close relationship with US civil society groups and plans common activities in the months ahead.

Further info:

• Joint statement:

English: http://www.bilaterals.org/?people-environment-and-democracy

French: http://www.bilaterals.org/?les-peuples-l-environnement-et-la

Portuguese: http://www.bilaterals.org/?as-pessoas-o-ambiente-e-a

German: http://www.bilaterals.org/?menschen-umwelt-und-demokratie-vor

• TAFTA/TTIP rally in Arlington/USA on 21st May: http://bit.ly/taftarally

Contact: Arthur Stamoulis, Citizens Trade Campaign (USA), 001-202-494-8826 or arthur@citizenstrade.org (www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/)