TAFTA/TTIP – EU, US say hard to imagine trade deal without investor protection

A trade deal between the United States and Europe is hard to imagine without strong investor protection, US Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Thursday (30 October), hours after outgoing Commissioner Karel De Gucht said the US may break off talks unless Europeans show a firmer willingness to include investment-protection provisions in any deal.

Negotiations on the so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement or ISDS have been frozen after criticism in Europe and the European Commission is digesting the results of a public consultation before deciding how to go ahead.

The clause would allow foreign investors to use arbitration panels instead of domestic courts to make claims against a national government when an investment is harmed, for example through expropriation. Some politicians in the EU oppose the clause because of the potential limits it places on governments’ ability to regulate in the public interest.

Froman said including investor-state dispute settlement provisions would not impinge on a government’s ability to regulate in the public interest.

« It’s hard to imagine a high standard agreement … that does not have a high standard of investor protections as well, » he said at the Washington Ideas Forum.

Publicités

World Trade Organization Rules Against Popular U.S. Country-of-Origin Meat Labels on Which Consumers Rely

Compliance Panel Says U.S. Policy Still Violates WTO Despite Changes Made to Comply With 2012 WTO Order; U.S. Should Not Change COOL Policy

Today’s ruling by a World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance panel against U.S. country-of-origin meat labeling (COOL) policies sets up a no-win dynamic, and the Obama administration should appeal the ruling, Public Citizen said.

If the administration were to weaken COOL, U.S. consumers would lose access to critical information about where their meat comes from at a time when consumer interest in such information is at an all-time high and opposition would only grow to the administration’s beleaguered trade agenda. If the administration again were to seek to comply with the WTO by strengthening COOL, then Mexico and Canada – the two countries that challenged the policy – likely would continue their case, even though cattle imports from Canada have increased since the 2013 strengthening of the policy.

The ruling further complicates the Obama administration’s stalled efforts to obtain Fast Track trade authority for two major agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement. Both of these pacts would expose the United States to more such challenges against U.S. consumer, environmental and other policies.

“Many Americans will be shocked that the WTO can order our government to deny U.S. consumers the basic information about where their food comes from and that if the information policy is not gutted, we could face millions in sanctions every year,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Today’s ruling spotlights how these so called ‘trade’ deals are packed with non-trade provisions that threaten our most basic rights, such as even knowing the source and safety of what’s on our dinner plate.”

The WTO compliance panel decided that changes made in May 2013 to the original U.S. COOL policy in an effort to make it comply with a 2012 WTO ruling against the law are not acceptable and that the modified U.S. COOL policy still constitutes a “technical barrier to trade.” The panel decided that the strengthened COOL policy afforded less favorable treatment to cattle and hog imports from Canada and Mexico, despite a 52 percent increase in U.S. imports of cattle from Canada under the modified policy. The panel stated that the alleged difference in treatment did not “stem exclusively from legitimate regulatory distinctions.”

The United States has one chance to appeal this decision before the WTO issues a final, binding ruling. Under WTO rules, if the U.S. appeal fails, Canada and Mexico would be authorized to impose indefinite trade sanctions against the United States unless or until the U.S. government changes or eliminates the popular labeling policy.

Today’s ruling follows a string of recent WTO rulings against popular U.S. consumer and environmental policies. In May 2012, the WTO ruled against voluntary “dolphin-safe” tuna labels that, by allowing consumers to choose to buy tuna caught without dolphin-killing fishing practices, have helped to dramatically reduce dolphin deaths. In April 2012, the WTO ruled against a U.S. ban on clove-, candy- and chocolate-flavored cigarettes, enacted to curb youth smoking. In each of those cases, U.S. policy changes made to comply with the WTO’s decisions also have been challenged before WTO panels similar to the one that issued today’s ruling.

“The WTO again ruling against a popular U.S. consumer protection will just spur the growing public and congressional concerns about the big Pacific and European trade deals the administration is now pushing and the Fast Track authority to railroad through Congress more agreements that undermine basic consumer rights,” said Wallach.

Background

The COOL policy was created when Congress enacted mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meat – supported by 92 percent of the U.S. public in a recent poll – in the 2008 farm bill. This occurred after 50 years of U.S. government experimentation with voluntary labeling and efforts by U.S. consumer groups to institute a mandatory program.

In their successful challenge of COOL at the WTO, Canada and Mexico claimed that the program violated WTO limits on what sorts of product-related “technical regulations” signatory countries are permitted to enact. The initial WTO ruling was issued in November 2011. Canada and Mexico demanded that the United States drop its mandatory labels in favor of a return to a voluntary program or standards set by an international food standards body in which numerous international food companies play a central role. Neither option would offer U.S. consumers the same level of information as the current labels. The United States appealed.

The WTO Appellate Body sided with Mexico and Canada in a June 2012 ruling against COOL. The U.S. government responded to the final WTO ruling by altering the policy in a way that fixed the problems identified by the WTO tribunal. However, instead of watering down the popular program as Mexico and Canada sought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture responded with a rule change in May 2013 that strengthened the labeling regime. The new policy provided more country-of-origin information to consumers, which satisfied the issues raised in the WTO’s ruling. However, Mexico and Canada then challenged the new U.S. policy. With today’s ruling, the WTO has announced its support for the Mexican and Canadian contention that the U.S. law is still not consistent with the WTO rules.

http://citizen.typepad.com/


Setting Europe in Motion: President-elect Juncker’s Main Messages from his speech before the European Parliament Statement in the European Parliament plenary session ahead of the vote on the College

Setting Europe in Motion: President-elect Juncker’s Main Messages from his speech before the European Parliament

Statement in the European Parliament plenary session ahead of the vote on the College

Jean-Claude Juncker

President-elect of the European Commission

Strasbourg, 22 October 2014

Time for Action Lire la suite »


World Trade Organization veils meaty information

World Trade Organization veils meaty information

Posted Oct. 20, 2014 / Posted by: Kate Colwell

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A World Trade Organization tribunal ruled today that the U.S. law requiring country-of-origin labeling for meat violates international trade law, essentially denying Americans the right to know where their meat comes from. The United States is likely to appeal, but the WTO Appellate Body has in the past consistently ruled against U.S. food safety and product labeling measures.

All this happens in the context of likely congressional consideration of Fast Track trade promotion legislation. Fast Track would grease the skids for congressional approval of the Trans Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade agreements, which are currently under negotiation. Both deals would undermine government regulatory authority to ensure that food is safe and that consumers can make informed decisions about which products to buy. Like the WTO, they would impose restrictions on food safety, labeling, and other environmental and health safeguards.

Kari Hamerschlag, Senior program manager for Friends of the Earth’s Food and technology program, made the following comment:

This latest World Trade Organization ruling against country-of-origin labeling for meat directly counters the growing American desire for transparency about their food. The ruling powerfully evidences how international trade deals like the Trans Atlantic and Trans Pacific agreements will undermine food safety, product labeling standards and a wide range of other safeguards. The United States should appeal the WTO tribunal decision and take food safety and labeling measures off the table in the Pacific and Atlantic trade negotiations.

To prevent future similar abuses of the consumer public, Congress must reject any legislation providing for Fast Track approval of such deals. Fast Track would force quick up or down votes on these trade agreements, without the possibility of making congressional amendments to preserve food safety, labeling and other common sense public health and environmental measures.

The WTO tribunal ruled that revisions to U.S. country of origin labeling safeguards made in May 2013 did not conform to a 2012 WTO appellate ruling against the original U.S. law on country-of-origin labeling. While the U.S. can appeal it, this most recent tribunal decision follows in a train of  successful WTO challenges in similar cases related to dolphin-safe tuna labeling and sale of clove and candy flavored cigarettes.

– See more at: http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2014-10-world-trade-organization-veils-meaty-information#sthash.ZZUM3J0z.dpuf


A Trade Storm Is Brewing / TPP – TAFTA – TiSA

A Trade Storm Is Brewing

At the beginning of the year, we warned you about the upcoming trade tsunami. Well hold on to your hats everyone, because another “trade” storm is heading our way.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiators are meeting in Australia this month and are aiming to finish the massive 12-country “trade” agreement.

Despite mounting evidence that the TPP should not be completed — including the leak of another part of the top-secret text earlier this week — President Barack Obama wants the TPP done by November 11. That is when he will be meeting with other TPP-country heads of state in China at the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference.

With the TPP’s threats to food safety, Internet freedom, affordable medicine prices, financial regulations, anti-fracking policies, and more, it’s hard to overstate the damage this deal would have on our everyday lives.

But the TPP isn’t the only threat we currently face. We are also up against the TPP’s equally ugly step-sisters: TAFTA and TISA. And Obama wants to revive the undemocratic, Nixon-era Fast Track trade authority that would railroad all three pacts through Congress.

The Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) is not yet as far along as the TPP, but TAFTA negotiations recently took place in Washington, D.C., and more are set for a few weeks from now in Brussels. The largest U.S. and EU corporations have been pushing for TAFTA since the 1990s. Their goal is to use the agreement to weaken the strongest food safety and GMO labeling rules, consumer privacy protections, hazardous chemicals restrictions and more on either side of the Atlantic. They call this “harmonizing” regulations across the Atlantic. But really it would mean imposing a lowest common denominator of consumer and environmental safeguards.

The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) is a proposed deal among the United States and more than 20 other countries that would limit countries’ regulation of the service sector. At stake is a roll back of the improved financial regulations created after the global financial crisis; limits on energy, transportation other policies needed to combat the climate crisis; and privatization of public services — from water utilities and government healthcare programs to aspects of public education.

TPP, TAFTA and TISA represent the next generation of corporate-driven “trade” deals. Ramming these dangerous deals through Congress is also Obama’s impetus to push for Fast Track. Fast Track gives Congress’ constitutional authority over trade to the president, allowing him to sign a trade deal before Congress votes on it and then railroad the deal through Congress in 90 days with limited debate and no amendments. Obama opposed Fast Track as a candidate. But now he is seeking to revive this dangerous procedural gimmick.

Because of your great work, we’ve managed to fend off Fast Track so far. This time last year, the U.S. House of Representatives released a flurry of letters showing opposition to Fast Track from most Democrats, and a wide swath of Republicans. This is something the other side was not expecting, and they were shocked. We won that round, but Obama and the corporate lobby are getting ready for the final push.

Because Fast Track is so unpopular in the House, Speaker John Boehner has a devious plan to force the bill through Congress in the “lame duck” session after the November elections. We need to make sure our “ducks” are in a row before that.

Some members of Congress are working on a replacement for Fast Track. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) says he will create what he calls “Smart Track.” It is not yet clear if this will be the real Fast Track replacement we so desperately need, or just another Fast Track in disguise.

Sen. Wyden will want to be ready to introduce his Smart Track bill right as the new Congress starts in January 2015. This means we have only a couple of months left to make sure his replacement guarantees Congress a steering wheel and an emergency brake for runaway “trade” deals.

With all these deadlines drawing near, it’s clear that a knock-down, drag-out fight is imminent. But we will be ready. The TPP missed deadlines for completion in 2011, 2012, and 2013 — if we keep up the pressure, we can add 2014 to that list as well. That’s why there will be a TPP/TAFTA/TISA international week of action Nov 8-14 — more details coming soon!


Concerns rise over US-EU trade talks

Activists protest against the TTIP and CETA in Berlin on 11 October 2014
Protesters took to the streets in Berlin on Saturday

There are rising concerns in Europe over negotiations to liberalise trade with the United States.

The project, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, aims to remove a wide range of barriers to bilateral commerce.

Demonstrations were taking place across Europe on Saturday, with large numbers of events in Germany, France, Spain and Italy, In Britain, events were planned in at least 15 cities and towns.

One campaigner involved in planning the day of action said she expected at least 400 local actions in about 24 European countries.

The EU and the US launched the negotiations last year and the aim is to stimulate more trade and investment, and, in the process, to produce more economic growth and employment.

It has proved to be extremely controversial.

Food safety

One aim of the negotiations is to reduce the costs to business of complying with regulations. A firm in, say Europe, that wants to export to the US often has to comply with two sets of rules.

Critics say the result of this would be lower standards of protection for workers, consumers and the environment. Food safety is a particular concern among European opponents of the negotiations.

People protest against the Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) in the southwestern French city of Narbonne on 11 October.
People in the French city of Narbonne joined the protests
A demonstrator holds a banner in Parliament Square in London on 11 October 2014
Demonstrators in the UK are worried about the impact on the National Health Service

In the EU, campaigners say that consumers could be faced with more genetically modified food, hormone treated beef and chicken meat that has been rinsed with chlorine.

Another major concern is the provisions under discussion to enable foreign investors – for example American firms investing in the EU – to sue a host government in some circumstances if they are hit by a change in policy.

That turned out to be so controversial that the European Commission decided to hold a public consultation. There were 150,000 responses which the Commission is still analysing.

The conduct of the negotiations is also contentious. Campaigners say they are secretive and undemocratic. They also dispute TTIP advocates’ claims about the economic benefits.

The European Commission rejects these criticisms. It insists that standards will be maintained and that the negotiations are accountable and transparent.

Solar panels
line

Analysis: Roger Harrabin, Environment analyst

The UK government has called a meeting with environmental groups on Monday to quell their opposition to TTIP.

The groups are worried that the plan would allow American industry too much influence over the setting of standards for improved efficiency of goods.

The environmentalists are also disturbed by plans for a dispute settlement procedure. They say it could be used by multi-national corporations to block moves to protect the environment.

The government meeting – at the Foreign Office – has been called by the climate change minister Amber Rudd.

She will say that removing trade barriers to green goods and services, like solar panels, will benefit the environment by helping reduce costs and encouraging innovation. She says she looks forward to hearing the groups’ views.

Tom Burke from the environmental organisation body e3g will tell her that the deal will be unacceptable unless it guarantees that the highest possible standards will always apply.

line

‘Irreversible sell-off’

In Britain, there is a specific concern among campaigners about the possible impact on the National Health Service (NHS). They fear that if a government ever wants to reverse any contracting of health services done by a previous administration, it could be expensive – because, they say, any American companies that lose business as a result could sue, using those controversial provisions for foreign investors.

Some campaigners even believe that TTIP might force governments to privatise some health services.

The trade union Unite wants health explicitly excluded from any TTIP deal. The union’s Assistant General Secretary Gail Cartmail said recently: « It is clear this government thought they could do this deal in secret, a deal that would mean the irreversible sell-off of our NHS to America. »

But the Health Minister Earl Howe says it would not be in the interest of British pharmaceutical firms to exclude health from the negotiations as they currently face trade barriers in the US.

Again, the European Commission says the concerns are misplaced, stating that TTIP « could have no impact on the UK’s sovereign right to make changes to the NHS. »


The Truth Behind the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership / Sierra Club

 

Responsible Trade Graphic