Sunday, January 11, 2015

MPs to investigate TTIP trade deal's impact on European environmental protections

Damian Carrington in the Guardian (UK): The impact of the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal on environmental protections in Europe is to be investigated by the UK parliament. MPs are to examine if the agreement could weaken regulations on chemical and pesticide use, oil and gas extraction and genetically modified food.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a planned free trade agreement between the European Union and the US, which its backers say will boost both economies. But critics fear it will weaken regulations and place the interests of companies above those of citizens, with 1.25 million people signing a petition against TTIP. The ongoing negotiations have been criticised for their secrecy, prompting the European Commission to release a slew of documents on Wednesday, including some negotiating texts.

“Greater transatlantic trade and investment could be beneficial for Britain, but we must monitor these talks carefully to ensure they are not trading-in the rules that keep our food and environment safe,” said Joan Walley MP, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which launched its inquiry on Friday. “We will be investigating whether it really is possible to sign such a deal and at the same time safeguard European environmental standards, as negotiators have claimed.”

A recent report from the Center for International Environmental Law (Ciel) argues that the European chemical industry wants the US system of chemical risk assessment to be adopted, which the group says would allow the use of over 80 pesticides currently banned in the EU. Other campaigners say US biotech companies want to use TTIP to open EU borders to imports of genetically modified food.

...Trevor Hutchings, at WWF UK, said the US-EU trading relationship is the largest in the world and as a result places significant pressure on the environment. TTIP should improve, not reduce, environmental protection, he said: “Unfortunately a number of TTIP provisions have the potential to undermine existing environmental standards.”...

A view of a German chemical plant, shot by Eugen Nosko - Deutsche Fotothek, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license

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