Corporate pressure over TTIP talks force EU to drop regulations on hormone-damaging chemicals

TTIP trade tour

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) undermine the ability of democratically-elected governments to regulate in the public interest on a wide range of issues, notably when those regulations impact the corporations that profit from the harmful practices in question.

The Guardian reports, "EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show. Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show."

The article explains, "On 26 June 2013, a high-level delegation from the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study. Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that 'although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards'. ...Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives 'complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists' of prohibited substances, the minutes show. The US trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and 'emphasised the need for an impact assessment' instead. On 2 July 2013, officials from the US Mission to Europe visited the EU to reinforce the message. Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria."

The problem with the "impact study" approach and the setting of "thresholds for safe exposure to endocrines" favoured by the American Chambers of Commerce and the US trade representative is that "a growing body of scientific results suggests that linear threshold models – in which higher doses create greater effects – do not apply to endocrine disruptors."

The newspaper notes that European-based transnational corporations including Dupont, Bayer and BASF were also lobbying against the regulations just before they were dropped.

As a consequence, "The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was kicked back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of €150bn per year in Europe from endocrine-related illnesses such as IQ loss, obesity and cryptorchidism – a condition affecting the genitals of baby boys."

Green MEP Bas Eickhout says, “These documents offer convincing evidence that TTIP not only presents a danger for the future lowering of European standards, but that this is happening as we speak."

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow warns in an upcoming report that, "TTIP and CETA impose new limits on the right of governments to regulate on behalf of their people or environment, establishing obligations that go far beyond the traditional requirement in trade deals not to discriminate between foreign and local corporations. ...TTIP and CETA are the first trade agreements to include mandatory regulatory cooperation (sometimes referred to a s regulatory convergence) – a process of harmonizing standards and regulations among all the jurisdictions on goods as diverse as pipelines, chemicals and food."

Given CETA creates a Regulatory Cooperation Forum to facilitate consultations with business stakeholders and the TTIP creates a Regulatory Cooperation Council that gives corporations the power to "co-write" regulations, the American Chambers of Commerce and transnational corporations would have even more power to prevent democratically-elected legislatures from regulating in the public interest.

Further reading
Barlow on 12-city tour in Europe against CETA starting Nov. 1 (October 2015 blog)
Could CETA mean genetically modified apples from Canada exported to Europe? (March 2015 blog)
Bil Oil undermines EU climate legislation, secures deregulation in CETA (October 2014 blog)
Tensions over food safety threaten TTIP, and perhaps soon CETA (March 2014 blog)
European regulations could be badly affected by Transatlantic free trade (March 2014 blog)