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12 de noviembre de 2014 | | | |

EU in favor of multinational corporations

Interview with Natacha Cingotti, corporate campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe

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The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is the name of the trade agreement that is currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. The claimed objective of the trade agreement is to remove trade barriers that exist between the EU and the US and make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the regions. The negotiations are criticized for being conducted in secret and undermining European social, health and environmental protection - working in favor of multinational corporations.

The European Commission declare on their webpage that the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” (TTIP) will result in “millions of euros of savings to companies and create hundreds of thousands of jobs” and furthermore that ” the extra economic growth will benefit everyone; boosting trade is a good way of boosting our economies by creating increased demand and supply without having to increase public spending or borrowing”. The TTIP negotiations have received widespread critique for favoring multinational corporations’ interests in the trade agreement. Natacha Cingotti, from Friends of the Earth Europe, claims that the trade agreement has in fact very little to do with trade: “this agreement is mainly focusing on non-trade barriers, regulations between the EU and the US that are protecting citizens and the environment”. She continues: “the aim of the TTIP is to get rid of those barriers and to basically facilitate the conditions in which big businesses operate - not necessarily to increase the flow of trade and not necessarily go in the directions of fair trade or trade that will promote higher standards”. As an example of this she says that: “we see that the EU is pushing for lifting restrictions on exports of fossil fuels from the US and that would be absolutely traumatic from a climate and environmental point of view, that would mean more emissions, more fossil fuel, and even a harder transition towards renewable”.

Unclear environmental impacts

The European Commission webpage writes that: ”as always before deciding to negotiate a trade agreement, the EU carried out an impact assessment of the potential effects of the agreement. This assessment examined not only the potential economic impact, but also possible social and environmental impacts. It looked at what might happen as a result of varying degrees of trade liberalization between the EU and US. In every case, the overall outcome for the EU was positive.” Natacha argues however that the European commission at the beginning of the negotiations stated that it was not very clear what the net effects are on the environment– this had not really been taken into account. The negotiations were starting at the basis of the economic impact assessment, and the sustainable impact assessment is going on at the same time as the negotiations proceed. Friends of the Earth consider the findings of the economic assessment controversial and “interestingly the consultancy that got the tender to do the economic impact assessment is the same that is doing the sustainable impact assessment“.

Corporations suing countries

One of the most controversial parts of the TTIP is the proposition to include a dispute settlement mechanism that is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlements” (ISDS) in the trade agreement. ISDS would enable corporations to sue countries, if the countries’ laws would prevent the corporations from profiting on a specific market. Natacha says “that is a mechanism that exists already in many treaties and is used to harm regulations and very often is against environmental measures”. One example of an ISDS is the Uruguayan state being sued by the tobacco company Philip Morris for Uruguay’s health policy aimed at diminishing cigarette consumption, Philip Morris claiming the policy to make their business unprofitable. From Friends of the Earth’s point of view Natacha declares that: “what we see in what is made public of the TTIP negotiations, and planned in the TTIP negotiations, is really worrying for us and absolutely unacceptable”.

Negotiations behind closed doors

Natacha further points to the lack of transparency within the ongoing negotiations – mostly conducted in secret with very little civil society oversight. She refers to the negotiations having the so called “vampire effect” – sucking attention away from content: “the moment people start seeing what is in the negotiations they become absolutely unacceptable”. Natasha points to one of the main reasons why Friends of the Earth has decided to oppose the agreement: “as the negotiations are secret - people are not being involved in discussions that affect them. Provisions that we have seen tabled on key issues such as energy, chemicals, and food safety are actually very dangerous. We do not see this as a trade agreement that goes toward the interest of people.”

Trade that benefits people

Friends of the Earth Europe are opposing the trade negations with the notion that the negotiations will most likely to bring the level of protection for people and for the environment toward lower standards while increasing the power of multinational corporations: “we think it is going to be really dangerous – what we see at the moment – mainly promotes the interest of big corporations but not at all what we would like to see which is in agenda of people, community and environment”.

Friends of the Earth is instead “calling for a trade deal that builds a better future through support for local economies and jobs, a cleaner environment and good social protection. A deal will only be acceptable if it places the interests of people and the environment at its heart, ahead of the interests of investors and big business.” Natacha concludes by saying that: “we want to make clear is that Friends of the Earth is not anti-trade. We promote trade, as long as it is fair-trade, trade that works for people, trade that allows high protection standards for workers, for the environment, for consumers”.

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