As the EU Commission begins the 11th round of the Trans-Atlantic Trade Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, social justice campaigners Global Justice Now have released a report accusing US negotiators of forcing the EU into "dramatically lowering, or even removing" regulations relating to the environment, food, farming and labour rights.
According to the report, US officials have used TTIP negotiations as a means to pressure the EU into abandoning plans to ban 31 types of dangerous pesticide, repeal a ban on the treatment of beef with lactic acid and make changes to the European fuel quality directive.
The briefing continues, "Corporate lobbyists are pushing so hard for TTIP because this is one of the biggest chances they’ve ever had to systematically strip these protections away from citizens and consumers. TTIP isn’t really about trade; it’s about corporations rewriting the rule book as to how they’re allowed to operate."
The report has split opinion throughout the EU institutions.
European trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, has staunchly defended the trade deal. In a statement released by the European Commission she said, "TTIP will not in any way affect EU public services. And it will certainly not undercut core EU legislation in areas such as food safety or environmental protection. These fears are unfounded. TTIP is about delivering quality jobs and high standards.”
Matt Carthy, a member of Parliament's GUE/NFA group, is strongly critical of TTIP. In line with Global Justice Now's report, he said, "regulatory convergence poses a serious risk of developing into a race to the bottom."
He added, "despite the promises TTIP won't risk EU healthy and safety standards, EU plans to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals found in pesticides were recently dropped as a result of EU pressure."
The study is only the latest in a string of controversies surrounding TTIP, with the agreement facing "passionate and widespread opposition."
Three million people have signed a petition opposing the deal. Meanwhile hostility to the so-called investor-state dispute settlement has been so great that the Commission has had to propose replacing this with the new, allegedly more transparent investment court system.
The Commission has also been accused of taking, "its steer from industry lobbies such as BusinessEurope and the European Services Forum, much as a secretary takes down dictation," - charges that it strongly denies.
Following the successful conclusion of the trans-Pacific partnership, an agreement between the US and 12 Pacific Rim countries, pro-TTIP MEPs have stepped up calls urging the US and the Commission to complete negotiations.