At the end of June, the European Union and the US will officially launch negotiations for a new free trade agreement known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The plan is to create the world's largest free trade area, 'protect' investment and harmonize regulation. While appealing to big business, the trade treaty poses a serious threat for citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, as it could weaken labour, social, environmental and consumer protection standards. One of the greatest risks includes US negotiators using the trade deal to push for the EU to open its plates and fields up to GM crops.
Everything is on the tableThe negotiation agenda is very broad. According to the leaked EU draft mandate it is likely to include "goods and services as well as rules on trade and investment related issues with particular focus on removing unnecessary regulatory barriers", with the aim of promoting "the untapped potential of a truly transatlantic market place". Basically, this means tackling what the Office of the United States Trade Representative understands as "technical barriers for trade", among them EU restrictions on GMOs. (see pp. 61).
One of the core part of the negotiations is that both the EU and US should recognize their respective rules and regulations, which in practice could reduce regulation to the lowest common denominator. The official language talks of "mutual recognition" of standards or so-called reduction of non-tariff barriers. However, for the EU, that could mean accepting US standards in many areas, including food and agriculture, which are lower than the EU's.
US officials state it quite clearly every time they have the opportunity: all so-called barriers to trade, including highly controversial regulations such as those protecting agriculture, food or data privacy are in their sights. Even the leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, made it clear that any agreement must also reduce EU restrictions on genetically modified crops, chlorinated chickens and hormone-treated beef.