Food, TTIP and much more

 

Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership TTIP is the largest trade agreement in history between the United States and the European Union, which has been negotiated from July 2013. The purpose of the partnership is the subordination of the national laws to the norms of free trade that have been established by large European and American companies. (1) Lobbies are pushing TTIP, and once it enters into force it will practically end state policies for trade, consumer protection, environment and financial regulations under the threat of draconian financial penalizations. States would no longer be able to regulate the market and limit the power of corporate capital (2), once implemented TTIP would not be annulled by political changes and public opinion (1), thus international trade agreements would be above national laws that are democratically passed. (3) If corporations are allowed greater powers than the states executives, then democracy itself becomes irrelevant. (2)

The world is now in the hands of multinational corporations and major financial players.
Marine Le Pen (National Front Party, France)

TTIP in the Media is presented as a trade agreement. All trade agreements are based on tariffs, but they are already very low between the US and the EU and are not an essential item in the agreement. Eighty percent of TTIP relates to non-tariff barriers, such as standards and regulations. (3) Therefore, the goal of TTIP not reduce tariff barriers, but all that hinders the flow of goods, such as excessive national policies, quality control, finance control, fight on global warming, worker rights and democratic decision-making processes. Eliminating trade irritants would enable companies in USA and EU to do business on the same terms and without government interference, continuing to increase corporate profits. Fancy terms such as harmonization, deregulation, regulatory convergence and mutual recognition in fact mean just the elimination of local laws. (1) TTIP advocates expect the unregulated market to facilitate trade – but to whose benefit, companies or citizens? They also state new opportunities for job creation, however TTIP will not solve unemployment in the EU. TTIP effects regarding jobs will not be seen even for ten years after the possible adoption of the agreement. (3) TTIP will likely increase unemployment, because the transition to the American model means weakening of trade unions and workers’ rights. Something similar happened after implementation of NAFTA, the trade agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, where 1 million jobs were lost in a twelve year period and the deal increased poverty in Mexico. (4) Actually NAFTA proponents promised opening of hundreds of thousands of jobs before the deal was adopted. (2) TTIP wants to liberalize public services, education, health care, and the EU is asking the US the elimination of programs that fund local economy as such laws are “discriminatory” for trade. (3) Almost all regulated activities covered by TTIP have become barriers to trade!

The negotiations are not transparent, meetings are secret and plans are not released to the public so that journalists and citizens are excluded from the ongoing debate. (5) Certain details were discovered thanks to WikiLeaks. (2) Only a small number of EU technocrats from the European Commission have knowledge of the talks. The European Council and the European Parliament have been left out of negotiations. The Parliaments of EU Member States, the European and American citizens do not have knowledge of the negotiations. (3) The TTIP contract favorites primarily the US, and it is detrimental of the European countries. (2) Negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic are lobbyists representing the biggest multinational companies of the world. The American delegation consists of more than 600 consultants delegated by multinational companies. In May 2013, over 20 agribusiness from the US (meat, dairy and grain industries) with clear interest in initiating TTIP gave the American trade side (US Trade Representative office, USTR) their requirements and needs that have to be incorporated into a new trade deal. (6) The negotiations also include the Transatlantic Business Council (TBC) that was founded in 1995 by the European Commission and the American Department of Commerce. The mentioned Council represents wealthy entrepreneurs acting in the direction of dialogue between the economic elite of the two continents, between Washington and Brussels. (1) In Brussels, more than 90% of the preparatory meetings were held with groups representing businesses, while in Washington the meetings were dominated by groups representing industry, over 85%. The least was represented by people dealing with environment, workers’ health and safety, thus those issues becoming secondary. (3) All research on TTIP was funded by business organizations and institutions who favorize free trade, so that social costs, as well as its direct victims (people) which could be hundreds of millions – were not mentioned in research. (1)

TTIP covers multiple fields, and closely related to our daily food are food safety, protection from harmful substances, and water supply. Other public services are included like education and health, health insurance, drugs, Internet freedom, privacy protection, up to immigration and the financial sector. (1,2) All these systems would open to American private companies. The European Commission is lying because it initially claimed that the public services will not be associated with TTIP and later British Trade Minister Lord Livingston acknowledged that public services are on the table. It seems that the TTIP goal is to take the remnants of the welfare state and create profitable business out of it. (2)

The most controversial part of TTIP is the Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement, ISDS. In the official interpretation it serves to provide security to investors in countries that do not have a reliable legal system, serves as protection to companies in the event of expropriation. (1) The question is, is that really a need when the US and the EU have a functional and sensitive property legislation, or is it some other reason? TTIP provides the establishment of arbitration courts between investors (companies) and the states, and the arbitration courts are given the power to sanctions states. Three legal experts would form the court and would not comply to the electorate but to the World Bank and the UN. (1, 4) In other words, unelected international corporations could dictate policy to democratically elected authorities. (2) All penalties and damages given by arbitration courts would be eventually paid by taxpayers. Sanctions would be given when state laws are in conflict with the expected future loss of profits of a company. You are reading this right: the expected future loss of profits!!! Therefore, the aim TTIP through ISDS is to increase the power of multinational companies at the expense of taxpayers. The multinationals (in food production we mention Nestle, The Coca-Cola Company, Walmart…) not only empty our wallets on a daily base for food, drinks, products and services, but in the case of TTIP implementation would further burden our wallets when this companies are not able to realize sufficient profits in our countries!?! The darkest TTIP scenario: each of the 3,300 European companies in the US territory and each of the 14,400 US companies in the European territory can one day be free to file a lawsuit against States when their future profits are threatened.

Arbitration courts do not have any upper limit for fines, and prosecutors (companies) are not obliged to any compensation, have no obligations to the states, and may also appeal where and when it suits them. ISDS in international treaties appeared in the 1990s, and are increasingly used. From 2000 the number of complaints has increased ten-fold. There is already a small exclusive scene of legal experts dealing with litigation between multinationals and states. (3) In 2013, fifteen legal experts led as much as 55% of all the procedures – arbitration has become money producing machine. (1) Law firms dealing exclusively with such litigations constantly encourage multinational companies to sue states, that is an outrageous attempt to profit from the countries and the peoples right to make their own laws! As via the ISDS only the company can sue the government, and not vice versa, the processes are not independent, are not open, not procedurally fair, not balanced, and certainly not democratic.

ISDS has been criticized as the worst legal system in the world, and raises many concerns, including equal opportunities to access to justice. Governments, civil society and national companies cannot fight the investors in those courts. The mechanism is only open to multinational companies operating in another jurisdiction, and it has led multinational companies to sue states for the environment, health and safety and other reasons. (3)

Examples of complaints and some decisions with these courts:

-in February 2010 Philip Morris company sued Uruguay for 2 billion US $ because the state introduced labels on cigarette packets about the dangers of smoking to health; Philip Morris is also suing Australia for passing laws against smoking; (3)

-in May 2012 Swedish energy company Vattenfall sued Germany for 3.7 billion euros due to the state decision on gradual closure of nuclear power plants; (2,3)

-Lone Pine company is suing Canada for 250 million US $ after Quebec introduced a moratorium on “fracking”; (3,4)

-the World Trade Organization WTO condemned the US for labeling “produced without compromising the dolphins” on tuna cans, and due to the disclosure of the country of origin on imported meat, as well as the ban on flavored tobacco – these measures were considered an obstacle to free trade!;

-also, WTO imposed the EU a hundreds of millions of euros for refusing import of GMO products – it means that Europeans already pay for their right to eat GMO free food, and it becomes clear why the Commission insists on the re-nationalization of GMOs and EFSA approves all GMO plants produced by biotech companies that are filled to evaluation;

-France multinational company Veolia sued Egypt due to an increase in the minimum wage;

-American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly sued Canada for establishing a system of patents that allows greater access to drugs;

-in the fall of 2012 was awarded the largest ever compensation in the amount of 1.7 billion US $ plus interest to Occidental Petroleum company at the expense of taxpayers in Ecuador in order compensate to the unfavorable termination of the contract (unfavorable for the company, but fair to the people and environment);

-in June 2015 the Canadian company Gabriel Resources sued Romania whose people managed to stop the government from granting permits for mining Rosia Montana mountains. The mountains were set to become the largest open gold and silver mine in Europe. The Romanians dared to protect nature and the environment from destruction and release of tons of cyanide, and tried to stop the eviction of 2,000 people – in turn the state was presented a complaint by Gabriel Resources which had planned to employ (only) one hundred people, but profit as much as 8 billion US $. This story can be easily copied to Croatia, where I live: the key words this time are: oil, gas, Adriatic, exploitation, strategic investor, jobs, low gas prices … it probably sounds familiar to many Croats. And in the end, environmental pollution will be a free gift to citizens, but profit will go to companies, while the Croatian state is the participant in this absurd and in fact allows it to be carried out.

As can be seen from the GMO food, it is expected that ISDS will continue to negatively impact the policy of the states – the states may decide in advance that they will not implement some decisions in order to avoid conflict with international trade agreements and be subjected to ISDS and asked for millions of dollars compensations – the countries will be in the grip of multinational companies. When state authorities make a positive decision in the interest of the people and the foreign corporations are able to sue states for these decisions, ultimately the cost is borne by taxpayers. State policies are then tailored primarily to meet the transnational corporations, not people, it is a dream come true for “cleaner” capitalism fans, while this is twilight zone for normal people, even for what little democracy we have left. (2)

Although it is possible that a state wins a lawsuit in the ISDS, it will still have to pay court costs and fees, which, on average, reach the sum of 8 million US $, and are still payed by the citizens! In order to make savings, governments would rather negotiate with the claimants. For example: Canada saved millions by abolishing it’s own ban on toxic additives used by oil industry. (1) TTIP agreement also provides that multinational companies can oversee future laws and will be able to intervene in this process, which is unheard of.

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TTIP and food

But what is TTIP effect on our food? Agribusiness on both sides wants to reduce regulation which reduces profits at the expense of food safety, farmers, consumers and animal rights. TTIP would shift Europe to the American model when it comes to food (USA now has 70% genetically modified foods), it would allow growth hormones, and pesticides that are currently banned. (2) The US side particularly wants the abolition of European tariffs on cheap pork, frozen chicken and dairy products, claiming that their products are cheaper and internationally competitive. They sure are cheaper, but that is because a handful of companies control the US market at the expense of huge amounts of producers, workers in these industries, and the society that pays the real cost of environmental and public health effects of such a policy. (6)

Half of the US states intend to make mandatory labeling of GMO in food, and about 80% of the population wants such food labeling. However, the food industry in the US and the EU looks for a ban on such labeling. The American biotechnology industries are not happy that GM products from the United States cannot be sold on the EU market – even though they are regularly imported as feed for cattle, pigs and poultry on European farms. So they do not hide the hope that TTIP will reduce the European resistance to GMOs. (1, 3) Also, the American side wants faster approval of GM seeds for cultivation in Europe. While the EU requires assessment for each genetic trait separately, Americans are developing several GM traits simultaneously and want them to be approved more quickly and all at the same time. (6)

The main objective of TTIP and American negotiators is the abolition of the precautionary principle, the foundation of the EU policy, which allows restrictions on the use of substances when there is a risk to humans, animals or the environment. It is necessary to prove that the products are completely safe before they appear on the market. Americans actually call the precautionary principle as “non-scientific” (3, 6, 7). In the US, everything is allowed to reach the market, and substances need to be proved dangerous before being withdrawn from the shelves! This is the fundamental difference between the US and the EU. Europeans expect to be protected before something bad happens. Americans expect that there is a possibility of lawsuits when something happens. The United States insists that the precautionary principle is “unscientific, limiting, discriminating, does not guarantee anything, and as such is an important barrier to export of American products.” (3)

The US meat industry treats fresh meat with chemicals to eliminate bacteria: it uses chlorine (hyper chlorinated water) to rinse poultry, and lactic acid to rinse pork. (6) Therefore, this industry wants to abolish the European ban on imported chicken which has been disinfected with chlorine, as well as the ban on beef treated with hormones (3). In February 2013, EU adopted lactic acid to rinse beef (6) – will this type of disinfection will be used for other types of meat, and is this the first step and preparation for the use of other disinfectants and adoption of TTIP?

The American Meat Institute (AMI) disapproves for the unjustified rejection of meat with beta-antagonists such as ractopamine hydrochloride (a failed asthma drug). (6) Ractopamine is used in live pigs and cattle as a growth promoter, and is banned in 160 countries, including the EU, Russia and China. (1,6) AMI argues that the ban is not set on a scientific basis and that it contradicts international standards. Ractopamine is banned in many countries because of the cruel impact on animal health since it masks stress hormones, animals really suffer and often die before time. What is worrying is the fact that eating meat with ractopamine can interfere in asthma control and the use of other asthma drugs in humans. When the US meat industry refers to the “international standard” for ractopamine, it refers to a controversial ballot at Codex Alimentarius, which allowed the use of ractopamine for two votes in a vote of more than 180 members. The vote was based on a review of six studies, of which three were submitted by the manufacturers of ractopamine. (6)

The US meat industry wants the EU to lift the ban on the use of antibiotics as growth promoters. (6) The Americans use a multitude of antibiotics on their farms – more antibiotics are used on farms, but to treat infections in humans. Approximately 80% of the antibiotics in the US are used in the production of animals, part of it solely as growth promoters. Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that in 2013 there were 23,000 deaths due to antibiotic resistance. (6) In light of this facts, it is realistic to demand a reduction of the use of antibiotics in food production systems, rather than an increase in their use by trade agreements.

TTIP will lead to the flooding of the EU with low-cost low-quality American food. (3) Corporations want to abolish the multitude of existing standards in the EU that are specific to food. TTIP will affect food labeling (less information), and the identification of the country of origin of the food product (3) – do you want to know if the chicken on your plate comes from Belgium, if frozen raspberries are from Romania or if breakfast cereals are imported from the United States? The chemical industry is involved too in wanting to prevent the regulation of endocrine disruptors that occur as residues of various substances in food. Endocrine disruptors in very small quantities disrupt endocrine glands in humans, and are especially dangerous to the fetus during pregnancy. Endocrine disruptors have an irreversible effect that becomes visible only later in life: often in forms of various cancers in men and women, reproductive system disorders, osteoporosis, diabetes, obesity and other diseases that are now becoming too common. The REACH regulation in force in the EU strictly regulates chemicals: the manufacturers first must prove that the substance is safe and then it can be used – while the US the situation is quite the opposite: any substance can be used until it is proved to be dangerous. This way there is a ban on the use of 1,200 substances in EU, and the US has banned so far only 12 substances. (2) For example, the carcinogenic asbestos is banned in the EU, but not in the United States.

The US meat and grain industries want the EU to lift the restrictions on the use of animal by-products in food and feed. The EU has such a ban since 2002 in order to prevent swine flu and mad cow disease, which increase the risk of disease in humans and pets. Europe wants to introduce restrictions on the use of cloned food, and the Americans do not want that. The US meat and dairy industries want to reduce the requirements for animal welfare that are accepted in the EU as well as abolish the counting of somatic cells in cow’s milk – which are an indicator of mastitis, a painful udder infection in cows. (6)

It is not all good for American food as industrialists from the BusinessEurope group want to abolish the US ban on imports from the EU, also want to reduce the US law on food safety, which was implemented in 2001 and allows monitoring and withdrawing infected imported products from the market. (1)

Unfortunately TTIP is not the only agreement which is currently being negotiated. There is also the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA). WikiLeaks speaks of the Bilderberg group intention to impose to the world a package agreements, where in addition to TTIP are mentioned Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). TISA’s includes distribution of water, health services, financial services, telecommunications, transportation, etc. It is certainly not transparent as it must be kept secret five years after it’s adoption, and in the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks are currently being conducted secretly in order to peacefully discuss all the points. The Ratchet Clauses in TISA agreement mean that once implemented privatization can not be disputed, nor the signatory states may withdraw from the agreement. (8)

European citizens are already trying to protect water from any privatization and the biggest campaign is “Right2Water“. Although the petition was signed by 2 million people in the EU, the European Commission ignored the will of the people. (8) As regarding TTIP, EU leaders also turned deaf to the will of the people, hundreds of speeches from civil society remained unanswered and talks are still being carried out non-transparently. The European Commission silenced public opposition arresting 250 peaceful anti-TTIP protesters on 15 May 2015 in Brussels. (3, 9)

Every reasonable EU citizen will vote against TTIP, but the catch is that no one from the ruling elite will ask for his vote. Spontaneous campaigns against TTIP appeared in Italy, Belgium, Germany, France and the UK, and only when citizens organize themselves it becomes possible to disseminate information and educate the public about the dangers arising from TTIP. The Self-organized European Citizens’ Initiative against TTIP and CETA has collected over 2,410,000 signatures (early August 2015), and it is still possible to sign the petition. On the Initiative’s web page stop-ttip.org there are news regarding the Initiative with the number of votes collected from individual EU countries. The Croatian version of the Initiative met the national signature quota. (5)

EP vote on 10 June 2015

The European Commission periodically reports the Parliament on the progress of negotiations, and 10 June 2015 was set for a discussion and a vote on the subject. But the vote was postponed unilaterally by EP President Martin Schulz (5) a day before the vote because of to many submitted amendments, most regarding the controversial ISDS system by which companies bridge national courts. Brussels has proposed to establish special investment courts to resolve disputes, but lawyers from the US said it was not necessary. TTIP was challenged by various European groups for fear that it will be at the expense of national services, welfare and the environment. (11) That caused extreme divisions in the EP over TTIP support, deputies were influenced by intense pressure of interested public and civil society. So, the June 2015 vote was certainly delayed for the citizens not to perceive the rift in the EU and the TTIP unpopularity.

As for the Republic of Croatia, the hither government adopted a decision to support the negotiations and conclusion of the agreement (12) obviously very much in tune with the disastrous policy that leads from the beginning of the mandate, without a sense of well-being of people who live here. The current prime minister, Zoran Milanović (SDP, centre-left) has a very positive opinion: “Croatia should not fear TTIP … nor (TTIP) is in general a Croatian problem … (Croatia) does not have a precise performance analysis TTIP in its economy … I do not see, for now, how imported American goods threaten us… there is less of these products from the US which one should be afraid of.” (5) His opinion can deftly be killed by every economy freshman student knowing that the increase in imports results in suffocation of domestic production (US exports in 2014 reached 2,35 trillion US $). Milanović “does not see” because he chose not to see, he lies in the name of the elite that represents and does not speak in the interest of the people and the country which represents.

MEP Andrej Plenković (HDZ, centre-right) said that the negotiations were not transparent enough and mystification created a series of fears so “we should make it clear that the Croatian public has not to be afraid of GMO foods which would be at lower standards than in the EU” (5) – did he actually said that EU is already using GM foods? Someone has to remind Plenković that 90% of Croatian citizens do not want GMOs, that all twenty-one Croatian counties declared themselves GMO-free (14), and that we certainly do not want lower standards for food that we have right now. Almost all politicians blindly believe in GMO fairy tales served by biotechnology, and they do not care or do not want to know that it is only a matter of time when negative evidence from the scientific community will dismiss GMOs and chemical industry which markets pesticides through patented food. You should be aware that the WHO has just confirmed the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, the pesticide that literally soaks all GMO crops and seems to have worse consequences than DDT.

Politicians do not really care for us, they prove it day by day. If we want to achieve something, we have to fight ourselves. No to TTIP!

Inform yourself and sign the petition against TTIP: stop-ttip.org

Sources:

1.Lori Wallach: Veliko podčinjavanje. Le Monde diplomatique. 26.11.2013., lemondediplomatique.hr
2.D. Marjanović: TTIP kao najveća prijetnja narodima Europe: Demokracija mora uzvratiti udarac prije nego je zgaze transatlantski ugovori o slobodnoj trgovini nakon kojih će korporacije postati moćnije od država. Advance. 30.12.2014., advance.hr
3.
Simon McKeagney: 30 reasons why Greens oppose TTIP. The Greens, European Free Alliance. 06.06.2014., ttip2015.eu
4.
What is Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership? YouTube. 02.07.2014., youtube.com
5.”Uspjeli smo!”: Hrvatska ispunila nacionalnu kvotu u peticiji protiv TTIP-a. Index. 13.06.2015., index.hr
6.Shefali Sharma: 10 reasons TTIP is bad for good food and farming. Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. 16.05.2014., iatp.org
7.
Cronin D.: A Farcical approach to food safety. SpinWatch. 28.01.2014., spinwatch.org
8.
„TPP-TISA-TTIP“ pod imenom “trojni ‘T’ pakt”: đavolska omča oko vrata čovječanstva zbog još jednog neobičnog dodatka. Nacionalna Geografija. 14.06.2015., nacionalnageografija.com
9.
Tanja Milevska: Hundreds of protesters arrested in Brussels as business leaders debate ‘maintaining citizen’s trust’. EurActiv. 16.05.2015., euractiv.com
10.Wiebke Schroeder: TTIP, e-mail communication. SumOfUs. 13.06.2015., sumofus.org
11.
Hazel Sheffield: TTIP vote postponed as EP descends into panic over trade deal. The Independent. 10.06.2015., independent.co.uk
12.
Burno u EP: Odgođeno glasanje, a potom i rasprava o TTIP-u. Orah. 10.06.2015., orah.hr
13.
US Department of Commerce: U.S. Exports Hit New Annual Record, Reaching $2.35 Trillion in 2014, 05.02.2015., commerce.gov
14.
Marijan Jošt: Europska unija i GMO. Portal Hrvatskog kulturnog vijeća. 19.01.2012., hkv.hr

 

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