Most of us do not know about a very serious issue. You can read about it on some websites, only the experts debate about it, and yet it concerns all citizens. This is the new commercial treaty between the United States and the European Union (TTIP: Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), whose negotiations are taking place behind closed doors. From a regulatory point of view, the idea is to pave the way to free trade between the two continents, putting trade (indeed) at the top of the list of priorities. Although seemingly trivial, this is actually the heart of the problem: if this agreement is not about citizens (their well-being, their rights, their sovereignty) but rather about profits, then this turns on its head what a government’s role should be.
There is the real risk that the treaty will be completely unbalanced in favor of (big) businesses, which would have the power to retaliate against governments if any regulations were to be put in place that could – in the company’s opinion – damage their investments. This is thanks to the so-called investor-state dispute settlement. Under this mechanism, foreign companies can use private tribunals to sue governments. And here is the bottom line: consider industries (through their lawyers) as entities able to impose fines on a public body which has the bad luck of making laws (e.g. protecting the environment and workers’ rights) which are seen as an obstacle to the number one priority: business.
Within agribusiness we can expect the nullification of the hard work that many citizens, associations and governments have carried out on behalf of food culture, health and quality. If the main concern becomes “reducing barriers to free trade”, then regulations like those on labeling, GMOs, animal husbandry methods (e.g. use of hormones, antibiotics, etc.), will also be considered in this light.
The fact that the negotiations are happening behind closed doors is not helping to make things clearer and certainly does not reassure us. We would also like to ask the candidates to the European Parliament: What do you think about this?