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Health, environment and climate are not negotiable

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S2B Network | 20 February 2020

Health, environment and climate are not negotiable

We have followed the recent talks between the European Commission and the US authorities on a new trade agreement with disbelief and disappointment. It has become clear that the Commission is prepared to accommodate Trump’s demands for a reduction of EU food safety levels, to the detriment of public health, animal welfare and the environment, and also undermining EU commitments on climate change.

Fear of threats made by the US President to impose high tariffs on European cars cannot be an excuse for retreating on basic public interest. The apparent paradigm shift within the Commission, emerging after months of negotiating behind closed doors and largely shielded from public scrutiny, is highly alarming. We call on governments and parliamentarians in the EU to push the Commission to alter its course. It must be made clear to the US Administration that our public health and environmental protection levels are not for sale.

Pressure from US trade negotiators on the EU to lower standards is nothing new. Recent statements made by US Agricultural Secretary Perdue stated that any deal would depend on concessions from the EU to allow meat rinsed with acid or chlorine, or treated with hormones, pesticide residues in food and feed, or the dismantling of protective rules on GMOs.

What is new is the response from the EU. When a comprehensive free trade agreement (TTIP) was negotiated with the US previously, the Commission claimed it would not lower standards. But recent statements by Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan about the current talks show a different approach. He has spoken of “a long list of regulatory barriers in agriculture” that could be “resolved” in an agreement.

These “regulatory barriers” are in place for good reasons: We have rules on pesticides and chemical hormones in meat to protect our health and the environment. We have restrictions on GMOs to protect biodiversity and consumers. We have restrictions on meat treated with chlorine or acid to protect animal welfare and food safety. EU citizens’ commitment to a precautionary approach was strongly confirmed during the public debate on TTIP – a trade agreement that would not have survived a democratic vote within the EU had it included concessions on the scale now demanded by the US.

We believe the Commission is putting the goals of the ‘European Green Deal’ at risk. This comprehensive strategy covers several elements now targeted by the US. For instance, according to the strategy the EU must work “to reduce significantly the use and risk of chemical pesticides”. Repeated calls from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) to support sustainable agriculture add further strength to this commitment. Yet, the Commission has not rejected US demands to lower ambitions in this area, and thus risks lending support to the most polluting kind of agriculture. Moreover, given that the conciliatory approach of the Commission is an attempt to protect the export from the EU of notoriously climate-damaging cars, the promise of the European Green Deal to bring about a greener approach to agriculture and trade now seems to be undermined by the Commission itself.

Furthermore, the Commission does not even have a mandate to conduct negotiations on these matters. The mandate adopted in April 2019 leaves no space for negotiations on food and other safety standards. Trade Commissioner Hogan has said that he is “trying to look at ways where through regulatory cooperation we might be able to look at non-tariff barriers as a way of bringing agriculture issues on the table”. This suggests that the Trade Commissioner wants to establish a long-term, discreet dialogue behind the scenes to find ways to accommodate US demands, for which he has the support of some member states. That must not be allowed to happen. It would undermine EU laws and procedures agreed to decades ago, it is not within the current mandate, and it should not be in a new one.

In light of the above, we call on European governments in the Council of the EU and parliamentarians to ensure that our concerns regarding the protection of labour rights and the environment, transparency and the involvement of civil society are honoured. Our elected representatives must call for an overhaul of the current trade talks with the US. The EU must make unequivocally clear to the US Administration that our public health and environmental protection levels are not for sale, that we will not succumb to threats, and that trade policy must put people, the environment and the climate first.

Read also: Questions and answers on the EU-US trade talks


  • Attac Austria Austria
  • Katholische ArbeitnehmerInnen Bewegung Österreich Austria
  • Allianz gerechtes Handeln Austria
  • transform!at Austria
  • – Verein zur Förderung zivilgesellschaftlicher Partizipation Austria
  • Center for Encounter and Active Non-Violence Austria
  • GLOBAL 2000 – Friends of the Earth Austria Austria
  • Evangelische Kirche Hallein Austria
  • Anders Handeln Austria
  • ELA Basque Country
  • CNE Belgium
  • vzw Climaxi Belgium
  • d19-20 Belgium
  • CNE Belgium
  • Entraide et Fraternité Belgium
  • MAP Belgium
  • 11.11.11 Belgium
  • European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) Belgium
  • CNCD-11.11.11 Belgium
  • Mouvement d’Action Paysanne Belgium
  • Global Aktion Denmark
  • ClientEarth Europe
  • Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network Europe
  • Corporate Europe Observatory Europe
  • Slow Food Europe Europe
  • Seattle to Brussels Network Europe
  • European Environmental Bureau Europe
  • Friends of the Earth Europe Europe
  • Banana Link France
  • AAF-PSo France
  • Comité Pauvreté et politique France
  • Emmaüs International France
  • confederation paysanne France
  • réseau Roosevelt IDF France
  • Fédération Artisans du Monde France
  • alofa tuvalu France
  • Comemrce Équitable France France
  • Sherpa France
  • Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network France France
  • Réseau Foi & Justice Afrique Europe antenne France France
  • Veblen Institute France
  • Attac France France
  • Aitec France
  • Collectif stop tafta France
  • Amis de la Terre France France
  • BLOOM Association France
  • Committee in Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples of the Americas (CSIA-Nitassinan) France
  • Youth and Environment Europe France
  • Confederation paysanne 24 France – Dordogne
  • PowerShift e.V. Germany
  • Campact Germany
  • BUND KG Bonn Germany
  • Kölner Bündnis für gerechten Welthandel Germany
  • Zukunftskonvent Germany
  • Forum Umwelt & Entwicklung Germany
  • Bonner Bündnis gegen TTIP & Co – für solidarischenWelthandel Germany
  • Arbeitskreis Freihandelsfalle von Attac München Germany
  • Berliner Wassertisch Germany
  • foodwatch international Germany
  • Sozial- und Schuldnerberatung Germany
  • Greenpeace Global
  • Naturefriends Greece
  • Towards Sustainability Association Hungary
  • Clean Air Action Group Hungary
  • Zöldövezet Társulás Környezetvédelmi Egyesület Hungary
  • Green Circle of Pécs Hungary
  • Fauna Alapítvány Hungary
  • New Hempage jdoo Hungary
  • Eletfa Environmental Protection Association Hungary
  • Civilek a Mecsekért Mozgalom Hungary
  • Environmental Planning and Education Network Hungary
  • Ararát Teremtésvédelmi Munkacsoport (Ararat Care for Creation Workgroup) Hungary
  • Szombathely-Herény K. Cs. S Egyesület Hungary
  • Védegylet Egyesület Hungary
  • Tanácsadók a Fenntartható Fejlődésért Hungary
  • Vision Association Hungary
  • Holocén Természetvédelmi Egyesület Hungary
  • Közép-magyarországi Zöld Kör Hungary
  • REFLEX Környezetvédő Egyesület Hungary
  • Magyarországi Éghajlatvédelmi Szövetség Hungary
  • Karátson Gábor Kör Hungary
  • Magyar Természetvédők Szövetsége / Friends of the Earh Hungary Hungary
  • Heroes of Responsible Dining Foundation Hungary
  • Csalàn Egyesület Hungary
  • Gyermekláncfű Kézműves, Oktatási és Környezetnevelési Egyesület Hungary
  • Fényszaruiak Baráti Egyesülete Hungary
  • Zöld Akció Egyesület (Green Action) Hungary
  • Magosfa Foundation Hungary
  • Profilantrop Association Hungary
  • GRAIN international
  • Good Energies Alliance Ireland Ireland
  • Feasta: the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability Ireland
  • Irish Seed Savers Association CLG Ireland
  • Fracking Free Clare Ireland
  • An Claíomh Glas Ireland
  • An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland Ireland
  • Fairwatch Italy
  • Stop TTIP/CETA Italia Italy
  • transform! italia Italy
  • Latvian Fund for Nature Latvia
  • Mouvement Ecologique asbl Luxembourg
  • Both ENDS Netherlands
  • Transnational Institute Netherlands
  • We&waste Poland
  • Instytut Globlanej Odpowiedzialności (IGO) Poland
  • Stowarzyszenie Rozruch Poland
  • Pro-Terra Foundation Poland
  • TROCA- Plataforma por um Comércio Internacional Justo Portugal
  • ZERO – Association for the Sustainability of the Earth System Portugal
  • CEPTA Slovakia
  • SOSNA Slovakia
  • Umanotera Slovenia
  • Focus Association for Sustainable Development Slovenia
  • ASiA-Associació Salut i Agroecología Spain
  • Campanya Catalunya No als Tractats de Comerç i Inversió Spain
  • Campaña No a los Tratados de Comercio e Inversión Spain
  • Ecoogistas en Acción Spain
  • Coag (Coordinadora de Organizaciones de Agricultores y Ganaderos) Spain
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy U.S. and Europe

 source: S2B Network