Groups Oppose Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA)

Proposed Plans for U.S./E.U. Trade Deal Would Weaken Health, Consumer, Worker, Environmental Protections

May 12, 2014 | Download PDF

Ambassador Michael Froman
United States Trade Representative
Executive Office of the President
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20508

Commissioner Karel de Gucht
Commissioner for Trade European Commission
BE-1049 Brussels

Dear Ambassador Michael Froman and Commissioner Karel De Gucht:

The undersigned organizations are writing to express our deep concerns about proposals for “regulatory cooperation” between the United States and European Union under the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, otherwise known as the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement or TAFTA). [The term “regulatory cooperation” is meant to include “regulatory coherence” and “regulatory convergence.” “Regulatory Coherence” is used in reference to the proposed horizontal chapter with this title, or the EU’s position paper on this horizontal chapter, referenced below.]

The vast majority of estimates for TTIP’s economic benefits are hypothesized to come from tackling “non-tariff” or “technical barriers” to trade. These perceived barriers are also the laws that protect people, the environment, and the integrity of our respective economies. The EU and the U.S. acknowledge that reducing these costs to industry is one of the most important and most challenging aspects of these trade negotiations.

Thus, TTIP is more about how national or regional laws and policies are made, rather than international trade in its traditional sense.

To achieve this ambitious goal, EU and U.S. negotiators are discussing various proposals for Trans-Atlantic regulatory cooperation behind closed doors. The recent leak of an EU position paper on “regulatory coherence” provided much-needed insight into how negotiators hope to avoid future “non-tariff” and “technical barriers” to trade. While it is unclear precisely what form such “cooperation” would take, we understand that the proposals would entail several changes to EU and U.S. lawmaking processes. We note that we do not have adequate information from the United States to fully assess its position and the possible implications of their proposals.

The scope of these changes would cover “any planned and existing regulatory measures of general application” and “extend to regulations by US States and EU Member States.” Some of the key elements include:

Updates on “any regulatory and legislative initiatives with potential trade impact as of the planning stage”;

The use of “harmonization, recognition of equivalence, or mutual recognition” as tools for regulatory cooperation;

The use of “cost-benefit” and “trade impact” analyses for proposed regulatory or legislative initiatives, with a special focus on international trade impacts, to be published with the proposed final measure;

A requirement for “regulatory dialogues,” with trans-Atlantic governments;

The creation of a trans-Atlantic scientific body to guide regulatory decision making; and

The right of stakeholders to table “substantive joint submissions” for this body to consider.

To oversee these elements, the EU has proposed the creation of a Trans-Atlantic institutional framework, the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC), consisting of representatives from selected regulatory bodies in the U.S. and EU. The council would oversee the development and implementation of laws in the EU and U.S., including:

U.S. federal legislation, introduced by members of the U.S. Congress;

State-level legislation introduced by state legislators;

Rules and regulations proposed by U.S. federal agencies, U.S. independent agencies, and state-level agencies;

EU primary legislation;

EU implementing measures; and

Legislation at the EU Member State level, including relevant implementing measures.

We are concerned that these procedures could easily facilitate a roll-back of protection provided by existing legislation, and that they would likely impede the development of new legislation and the implementation of what currently exists. Implementation is the key for legislation at any level of government, including the precautionary principle and other important public safeguards.

The top-down coordination of these measures through an institutional framework for transatlantic regulatory cooperation, we feel, would likely become a significant source of delay and preempt a state, a country, or region’s ability to maintain or establish stronger standards when consumers demand such or to respond to emerging technologies, new scientific information, preferred policies by the public, and urgent crises. One of our main concerns is that regulatory cooperation as suggested by trade negotiators will allow business groups and their lobbyists to exert undue influence in the regulatory process.

With an objective to prevent transatlantic regulatory divergence and minimize impacts to international trade, the preemptive power and influence of this institutional framework for regulatory cooperation is of particular concern. As proposed, this body is designed to prioritize potential trade impacts over other factors in decision making. Even without a focus on trade-related impacts, cost-benefit analysis can produce unreliable results and may be heavily tilted against the public interest. Proposals to add yet more layers of analysis and governance to the rulemaking process will increase delays and will impede achieving the central mission of most regulators: to protect the public and the environment.

Accordingly, we are deeply concerned that TTIP will have a chilling effect on the development and implementation of laws to protect people and the environment. We note your stated objective to protect the “right” to regulate and to preserve existing standards; however, the procedural recommendations advanced could undercut both of these stated objectives.

Therefore, we ask that you (1) publish draft negotiating texts on regulatory cooperation and coherence, sectoral annexes, and SPS/TBT chapters, as well as and the most recent position papers from the EU and U.S., given their direct relevance to lawmaking in the United States and the European Union, including by states and Member States, respectively; and (2) answer the following eight questions:

1) What exactly has been discussed and/or agreed upon between EU and US negotiators on regulatory cooperation?

2) How do you plan to prevent regulatory cooperation provisions in TTIP from slowing the implementation of existing laws? Proposals indicate extensive regulatory dialogues throughout several stages of regulatory processes on both sides of the Atlantic, with the production and exchange of information on alternative options and impacts, including written responses.

3) How do you plan to prevent regulatory cooperation provisions from being an impediment to the development of new legislation? It is proposed that Parties would inform each other of legislative initiatives at an early stage, engage in Trans-Atlantic dialogues during the lawmaking process, and assess impacts to international and transatlantic trade.

4) How would these regulatory cooperation provisions apply to states in the United States and Member States in the European Union?

5) How do you plan to make the proposed RCC, or another Trans-Atlantic institutional framework for regulatory cooperation, accountable and transparent?

6) How would trade impact or cost-benefit analyses account for both the quantifiable and non-quantifiable benefits of prompt and progressive regulatory action, such as the benefits of protecting human health by reducing exposure to toxic chemicals and the benefits of ensuring the stability of our financial systems?

7) Are there any plans to prevent dominance of interested business groups in, for example, the sectoral dialogues, or is the proposal intended solely as a platform for a transatlantic business dialogue?

8) Will the proposed changes to lawmaking in the EU or U.S. be subject to international dispute resolution or provide a valid legal basis for lawsuits in either the EU or U.S. challenging the legality of adopted legislation or regulation?

The answers to these questions will help us better understand the procedural and substantive questions voiced by the public on both sides of the Atlantic as a consequence of leaked documents drafted by government and industry over the past several months. The public, including lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic and at all levels of government, have the right to know.

Signed,

US Organizations

AFL-CIO

Alaska Community Action on Toxics

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

American Medical Student Association

Americans for Financial Reform

BlueGreen Alliance

Breast Cancer Fund

Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Effective Government

Center for Environmental Health

Center for Food Safety

Center for Responsible Lending

Center for Science and Democracy, Union of Concerned Scientists

Center of Concern

Chicago Consumer Coalition

Citizens’ Environmental Coalition

Citizens Trade Campaign

Clean and Healthy Indiana

Clean and Healthy New York

Clean Water Action

Clean Water Action (CT)

Coalition for a Safe and Healthy CT

Coalition for Sensible Safeguards

Concerned Citizens of Wagon Mound and Mora County (NM)

Consumer Assistance Council, Inc.

Consumer Federation of America

Consumer Federation of the Southeast

Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety

Consumers Union

Earthjustice

Economic Policy Institute

Farm Workers Association of Florida (FWAF)

Farmworker Association of Florida

Food & Water Watch

Friends of the Earth, US

Global Community Monitor Global Exchange

Green America

Greenpeace US

Health Care Without Harm

Humane Society International

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project

International Brotherhood of Teamsters

International Campaign for Responsible Technology

International Center for Technology Assessment

International Fund for Animal Welfare

Just Foreign Policy

Just Transition Alliance

League of Conservation Voters

Los Jardines Institute (The Gardens Institute)

Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition

Mossville Environmental Action Now

National Association of Consumer Advocates

National Family Farm Coalition

National Legislative Association on Prescription

Drug Prices

Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility of United Church of Christ

Oregon Consumer League

Parents Against Lindane

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Public Citizen

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families

Sierra Club

Southwest Workers Union

TEDX, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange

Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (T.e.j.a.s )

Trauma Foundation

U.S. PIRG

United Church of Christ Justice and Witness

Ministries

United Steelworkers

Women’s Voices for the Earth

World Society for the Protection of Animals

EU Organizations

11.11.11

abolish fraking

Academia Civica Bihor

Action For Breast Cancer Foundation

Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network

Afrika Kontakt

Aitec

Amicii Bucovinei

Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft

ASEED Europe

Association for Self Advocacy

Attac Austria

ATTAC Denmark

Attac España

ATTAC France

Berliner Wassertisch

Berliner Wassertisch/Muskauer Straße

BI lebenswertes Korbach e.V.

Both ENDS

BUND e.V.

Bundoran Transition Towns

Bürgerinitiative “Kein CO2-Endlager Altmark”

Central America Women’s Network

CENTRE FOR PEACE STUDIES

CHEM Trust

ChemSec

Clean Air Action Group

ClientEarth

Collectif Causse Méjean – Gaz de Schiste NON !

Collectifs Isérois Stop GHRM38

Corneliu Sosu

Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)

Danish Ecological Council

DobroGeea

Earth Watch Media

Ecologistas en Acción

EcoNexus

Environmental Health Strategy Center

European Attac Network

European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS)

European Federation of Public Service Unions

European Public Health Alliance

Fís Nua

FOE Mauritius

Food & Water Europe

Frack Free Romania

Fracking Free Ireland

Free World

Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE)

Friends of the Earth Scotland

Fundacion Vivo Sano

Gene-ethical Network

Générations Futures

GEOTA

German NGO Forum on Environment and Development

Germanwatch

GLOBAL 2000 Friends of the Earth-Austria

Global Social Justice

Grupo Portugal TTIP

Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL)

Health Care Without Harm Europe (HCWH)

IG Übersetzerinnen Übersetzer

Initiativ Liewensufank

INKOTA-netzwerk

Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association (IDEA)

Kairos Europe

Keep Ireland Fracking Free

LobbyControl

Minea Marius Sorin

NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union)

narcisa florentina arsinte

Naturschutzbund Vorarlberg

ÖBV-Via Campesina Austria

Person

PowerShift e.V.

PROVIEH VgtM e.V.

Quantic Association

Quercus – National Association for Nature Conservation

Réseau Environnement Santé

Rodica Cruceanu

Romania Fara Ei (Romania Without Them)

Scottish Environment LINK

Scottish Wild Land Group

Seeds Action Network – SAN Germany

SOMO

SPEhRo

The Cancer Prevention and Education Society

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation

Transnational Institute

Transparency International Germany

Transport & Environment

Tschecho-Slowakisch-Österreichisches Kontaktforum

Vira Association

VOICENCU LILIANA

WECF – Women in Europe for a Common Future

WEED – World Economy, Ecology & Development

Wemos

WWF European Policy Office

Transatlantic Organizations

ActionAid International

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

Environmental Investigation Agency

SumOfUs.org

Other International Organizations

BRAZILIAN RESEARCH NETWORK IN NANOTECHNOLOGY, SOCIETY AND ENVIRONMENT

Elisabeta Iosipescu

ES ASSOCIAÇÃO – ENERGIA SUSTENTÁVEL

Sivil Toplum Dayanışma Derneği