A controversial trade agreement being negotiated between the European Union (EU) and the United States could remove regulatory measures for toxic chemicals. According to a report released by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and ClientEarth, the trans-Atlantic chemical industry secretly proposed draft text for negotiators to consider including in the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA)/Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
According to a leaked document, the proposal, drafted by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) aims to use TAFTA/TTIP to “exploit regulatory differences between the two parties to slow regulatory developments at all levels, prevent the regulation of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and obstruct efforts to promote substitution of all harmful substances with safer alternatives,” CIEL reports.
Essentially, the chemical industry wants to decrease protections on toxic chemicals under the guise of improving regulatory differences. US industry groups have complained about stricter EU chemical laws, which the industry refers to as “trade barriers” rather than consumer protections.
According to the report, “Industry’s suggestion that its proposed ‘improvements’ purport to involve no changes in the underlying statutory or regulatory requirements in either jurisdiction are, at best, wildly implausible and, at worse, deeply disingenuous.”
“This proposal illustrates two huge and interrelated problems with TTIP,” Baskut Tuncak, Staff Attorney for the Center for International Environmental Law said in a press release, “the privileged position of industry to craft language in the trade agreement without public input, and the unlimited potential of TTIP to affect the ability of countries to regulate on toxic chemicals, energy and climate change, food and agriculture, and other critical issues.”
ClientEarth lawyer Vito Buonsante said that “The overriding theme of the proposals is secrecy. The industry wants to restrict the transparency of information which is essential if people are to make choices about what they expose themselves to.
The report shows that the chemical industry’s proposals would have a “particularly damaging effect” on legislation governing hormone-disrupting chemicals such as EDCs, which are found in numerous everyday products. Regulatory collaboration under TAFTA/TTIP through the creation of a Regulatory Cooperation Council would hamper and sometimes freeze chemicals regulation.
The industry proposal endorses and builds upon the EU’s proposal to create a Regulatory Cooperation Council, a trans-Atlantic body where half of the members would have no mandate from, or responsibility to, the public most affected by their decisions and in which the perspectives of other stakeholders would be wholly absent. Proposals by industry patently do not include civil society as a stakeholder in the process of regulating the manufacture and use of toxic substances.
TAFTA/TTIP has been described as just another TPP. The trade agreement, which, like TPP, is being negotiated behind closed doors, gives US and EU banks, corporations, and industry groups the power to weaken or eliminate consumer protections for both Americans and Europeans.
It was also recently reported that the deal could limit governments’ abilities to regulate fracking. TAFTA/TTIP contains a clause that would give more rights to corporations by enabling them to sue governments for losses in profit due to safety regulations. The industry-friendly clause could result in an increase in the exploitation of natural resources by preventing governments from enforcing regulations or bans.