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EU food safety commissioner doesn’t see majority support for TTIP in national parliaments

25,000 people protest GMOs, CETA and TTIP in Berlin on January 17. Twitter photo by Niels Jobstvogt.

25,000 people protest GMOs, CETA and TTIP in Berlin on January 17. Twitter photo by Niels Jobstvogt.

The European Union’s commissioner for health and food safety says that the United States-European Union Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) needs to be ratified by all national parliaments in Europe and that, “At the moment, I don’t see a safe majority for this yet.”

The German daily Tagesspiegel quotes EU commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis saying, “We have to take people’s concerns seriously.” And Reuters reports, “There is public opposition in Europe based on fears of weaker food and environmental standards. …There is [also] concern in Europe that U.S. multinationals would use a proposed investment protection clause to bypass national laws in EU countries. In Berlin, more than 25,000 people joined a rally against the TTIP and genetically modified food over the weekend.” Andriukaitis adds, “Cloning and hormone-treated beef and chicken chlorine are prohibited from us. TTIP it will not change anything. We do not negotiate our standards. Not with food, not in health care and not to protect the environment.”

The Council of Canadians has been highlighting that Europeans should be as concerned about the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) as they are about TTIP. This is because of the high degree of integration of the Canadian and American economies, the ongoing efforts to standardize regulations between the two countries, as well as the reality that the investor-state dispute settlement provision in CETA could be used by US companies, with offices in Canada, to sue Europe over public interest legislation.

The EU Observer has explained the issue of chlorinated chicken with respect to TTIP. They report, “US poultry producers have fewer sanitary demands on conditions for chicken, because once the chickens are slaughtered, they are dipped in a bleaching solution which kills all germs and bacteria. The EU has banned imports of this kind of meat.” The Council of Canadians has noted that while chicken is excluded from CETA, Health Canada regulations allow poultry carcasses to be “dipped, sprayed, or washed” with chlorine. More significantly, given CETA means that Canadian beef producers will be able sell an additional 50,000 tonnes of beef to Europe, our regulations also allow beef to be washed and processed with chlorinated water.

It is also notable that while the EU commissioner asserts that TTIP must be ratified by all 28 national parliaments within the European Union, the question of shared competency is still undecided with respect to CETA. The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, asserts that CETA is not a mixed agreement and therefore does not need to be ratified by the parliaments of member state countries. Given this issue has also emerged in the recently concluded EU-Singapore ‘free trade’ agreement, the ruling on that matter by the European Court of Justice could set the precedent for CETA. That judgment is expected by November of this year. If the ruling requires votes in the national parliament, those could begin in January 2016 with a vote in the European Parliament by April 2016.

The Council of Canadians estimates that at this point CETA could be defeated in the European Parliament in a vote as close as 393 to 358 in the 751-member assembly. We have also noted there are concerns about CETA among the national governments of Germany, France, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Further reading
Will chlorinated beef from Canada be on its way to Europe? (May 2014 blog)
CETA should have a GMO warning label on it in Europe (December 2014 blog)