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TTIP Trap: US Bullied Europe into Dropping Ban on Carcinogenic Pesticides

2015-05-23 02:17

US trade officials involved in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal pressured the European Union into throwing out regulation banning chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility.

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TTIP Trap: US Bullied Europe into Dropping Ban on Carcinogenic Pesticides. 29867.jpeg

The EU had drafted a plan that would have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine-disrupting chemicals, according to documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe and shared with the Guardian.

But on July 2, 2013, representatives from the US Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to push them into scrapping the ban. By the end of the day, amid fears of a trade backlash, the EU had done just that.

The TTIP is a controversial trade deal being agreed by the EU and United States, touted by supporters as a way to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade. Critics fear it will boost unemployment and strip elected governments of power, opening them up to litigation from major corporations.

European officials argued that "although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards," minutes of the meeting, reviewed by the Guardian, show.

In their response, AmCham representatives "complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists" of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The EU has far tougher regulations on potentially toxic substances than the United States. In Europe, a company must first prove a substance is safe before it can be used; the opposite is true in America.

As an example, Lee Williams, of the British newspaper the Independent, pointed out this alarming statistic: the EU currently bans 1,200 substances from use in cosmetics, while the US bans just 12.

On the same day of the visit from US lobbyists, Catherine Day, the secretary-general of the European Commission – the executive body of the European Union – asked the environment department's director Karl Falkenberg to relinquish the proposed bans.

"We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals," Day wrote in a letter. "We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine-disrupting substances."

The result was that legislation planned for 2014 was pushed back until at least 2016, despite estimated health costs of $150 billion euros per year in Europe from illnesses related to those "endocrine-disrupting substances," the Guardian reported.

Before the ban was dropped, American lobbyists warned of repercussions on trade if the regulation was approved, and instead pushed for the EU to conduct a retroactive impact study. 

Likewise, many large European firms expressed concerns over the ban"s potential to restrict trade. The German chemicals giant BASF complained that bans on pesticide substances "will restrict the free trade with agricultural products on the global level."

The series of events was described as "incredible" by the Green MEP Bas Eickhout.

"These documents offer convincing evidence that TTIP not only presents a danger for the future lowering of European standards, but that this is happening as we speak," he told the Guardian.

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