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European policy conference bringing together civil society organisations, negotiators and decision makers

To intensify the dialogue among civil society organisations, TTIP negotiators and political decision makers, Demeter International, in cooperation with the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) organised the European policy conference “TTIP – Increased Trade for Better Living?” The event took place on 15-16 June under the umbrella of the Agricultural and Rural Convention (ARC 2020) and was hosted by the European and Economic Social Committee (EESC) in Brussels. The conference aims were supported by 15 European and national NGOs. The two day conference gathered more than 150 participants and focused on TTIP and future EU trade agreements, examining their impact on sustainable food, agriculture and public health.

The aim of the conference was to produce a list of concrete recommendations for decision makers on how to construct better and fairer international trade relations for the benefit of societies and the environment.

On the first day, the plenary sessions focused on key areas of concern (the current state of the TTIP negotiations, impact of TTIP on food and farming and on health systems and services).

On the second day different working groups were involved in in-depth discussions. In the final plenary session, conference conclusions were drafted based on the plenary discussions and the workshop debates in an interactive and inclusive way.

The conference conclusions were sent to the European Commission and to political decision makers in Brussels ahead of the ’European Trade Policy Day’ on 23 June 2015.

Issues raised during the conference :

  • Civil society organisations, mainly in Europe, but also in the US, are very concerned that TTIP will undermine our democratic rights and legislation. The most prominent example is the planned Investors to State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) which enables foreign companies to take the hosting state to unofficial courts behind closed doors without any transparency. ISDS undermines democratic policy development and the sovereignty of societies and discriminates against local companies. There are few economic arguments in favour of ISDS between economies with developed legal systems (especially OECD countries) and there is no evidence of systematic discrimination against foreign investors by domestic courts in the EU and US.
  • The other big concern of civil society is TTIP’s aims regarding regulations and standards. The EU and the US have not just different regulations on food and farming, but also on health products (pharmaceuticals and medical devices). The sector of Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) is not regulated at EU level and therefore it requires specific attention.
  • European legislation in the food sector is based heavily on the “precautionary principle” as part of the risk management. However, in the US it is not included in policy making. Genetically modified crops or hormone treated meat from the US are prominent examples. As the EU is currently not willing to give up the precautionary principle there should be no negotiations regarding these types of foodstuff.
  • TTIP might also have an impact on future legislation and has the potential to undermine the right to regulate, both at an EU and Member States level. It is possible, that due to this agreement the EU is no longer able to introduce stricter rules concerning the use of pesticides – which might become necessary in the future. There are many more problematic examples in the field of regulation where the consideration of trade facilitating aspects only is not appropriate.
  • Member States have different traditions of organising their healthcare systems. The subsidiarity principle and the subsequent responsibility of Member States for healthcare services must not be undermined by any trade negotiations. Therefore, trade agreements must not force privatisation in the health sector, as there is no evidence that privatisation guarantees better health outcomes.
  • There is a risk that regulatory cooperation (in particular a proposed horizontal chapter in TTIP) may induce regulatory chill in the area of health if it is largely based on the assessment that regulations are irritants to trade. A clear distinction should be made between technical cooperation on the setting of standards and attempts to influence public interest policy-making.

The full report can be downloaded here: Conference Proceedings TTIP – Increased Trade for Better Living (pdf)

The Conference Conclusions can be downloaded here

- Conference related articles

EPHA video message – TTIP – Increased Trade for better living?

Demeter-EPHA Joint Press Release | TTIP – civil society raises concerns about impacts on Living

EPHA Video | Health is not for trade