Health & Safety

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TTIP - Impact on Health and Safety

20 June 2015

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. As a bi-lateral trade agreement, TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to international trade in order to make it better and easier for big business.

No TTIP sign

TTIP will affect many things, like food safety law, environmental legislation, health and safety law, chemical and dangerous substances regulations, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations. It has been described by one UK based charity as "An assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations."

Since before TTIP negotiations began in February 2014, the process has been secretive and undemocratic. This secrecy is on-going, with nearly all information on negotiations coming from leaked documents and Freedom of Information requests. Alongside the EU-US Trade Deal, talks known as TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), a similar deal is under discussion with Canada and the Canadian-EU deal is known as CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). Both deals give serious cause for concern.

One of TTIP's biggest threats is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which grants privileged powers to foreign corporations and companies, allowing companies to sue governments if those governments' policies of legislation cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies and legislation of democratically elected governments. ISDS arrangements in place in other bi-lateral trade agreements around the world have already seen Germany and Egypt sued for billions of dollars over decisions to improve nuclear safety and minimum wage increases. Many similar cases of businesses versus nations are going on around the world at the moment within Trade Agreements under ISDS 'arbitration tribunals' arrangements.

Two million people from across Europe have signed the European-wide petition against TTIP and CETA, including more than a quarter of a million from the UK. Numerous organisations, Charities and Trade Unions, including the CWU also oppose the TTIP in its present form. The Trades Union Congress meeting in Liverpool in September 2014 took the decisive step of 'outright opposition to TTIP and CETA. Millions of people across Europe have said no to TTIP, in the strongest trade campaign ever seen. Yet MEPs have continued the talks, pressed and lobbied by big business in Brussels. The pressure on MEPs therefore needs to be continued and stepped up by European people, Unions and other organisations.

Whilst many areas are set to be affected, The Health, Safety and Environment Department has written to MEPs specifically on the threat to EU/UK Health and Safety Legislation and standards which are undoubtedly at risk of being attacked, watered down, weakened or repealed if the EU signs up to TTIP and CETA with ISDS included and without effective protection and exclusion of Health and Safety from those arrangements other than improving standards to the best that exist within any partnership deal rather than lowering them, equal to the weakest standards that exist.

The best example of this is EU's REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of CHemicals) health and safety regulations which are far tougher on potentially toxic substances. In Europe a company has to prove a substance is safe before it can be used; in the US the opposite is true: any substance can be used until it is proven unsafe. As an example, the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics; in the US its just 12 substances banned.