Over the fence

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - PEOPLE IN PICTURES - With Erica Neustadt of Change4 Chal­font

SO Europe, in or out? By 2018, we will have voted in the EU ref­er­en­dum. Loss of sovereignty to Brus­sels is a ma­jor fac­tor for those who want to cut the cord.

If you are con­cerned about de­ci­sions taken be­yond our borders, imag­ine a world in which in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies could change our laws, re­duce food reg­u­la­tory stan­dards and sub­ju­gate all con­sid­er­a­tions to the global mar­ket.

Think of the im­pli­ca­tions; big busi­ness ve­to­ing na­tional gov­ern­ments, mar­ket im­per­a­tives over­rid­ing health pro­tec­tion mea­sures, reg­u­la­tion be­ing down­graded. Now google search ‘TTIP’. TTIP, or Transat­lantic Trade and In­vest­ment Part­ner­ship, de­scribes on­go­ing EU/US trade ne­go­ti­a­tions. A key aim of TTIP is to re­duce or re­move tar­iffs (taxes on im­ports) be­tween the EU and US.

A sec­ond is to re­duce reg­u­la­tory bar­ri­ers to trade, or get rid of them al­to­gether.

For ex­am­ple, where coun­tries have dif­fer­ent rules gov­ern­ing the use of, say, chem­i­cals in pes­ti­cides, one with a more lib­eral regime might strug­gle to ex­port to another, more tightly reg­u­lated state.

Re­duce dif­fer­ences in reg­u­la­tion and, the ar­gu­ment goes, the global mar­ket ben­e­fits. Prob­lem is, this may re­duce pro­tec­tion in the coun­try with higher stan­dards, to the detri­ment of its pop­u­la­tion’s health and its en­vi­ron­ment.

Many types of reg­u­la­tion in the US are set at a lower level than in the EU – so if as a re­sult of TTIP the EU aligns its stan­dards with the US, we might adopt a lower level of food reg­u­la­tion. In the US 70% of pro­cessed foods con­tain GM in­gre­di­ents. Cur­rently, ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied foods are prac­ti­cally pro­hib­ited in the EU.

TTIP will also cre­ate a right to sue gov­ern­ments for loss of profit caused by a reg­u­la­tory regime. So big busi­ness will be able to sue demo­crat­i­cally elected na­tional gov­ern­ments over, for ex­am­ple, clean air leg­is­la­tion, food stan­dards or en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion which they as­sert con­sti­tute a bar­rier to trade. Not only sue, but force them to change or re­lax such reg­u­la­tory pro­vi­sions.

These ac­tions will not be taken in na­tional courts, but in ar­bi­tra­tion tri­bunals not open to the public. Maybe the most im­por­tant ques­tion is – who do we want in charge? Do we want our demo­crat­i­cally elected na­tional gov­ern­ments to write our laws, to­gether with the EU’s leg­isla­tive body, or would we rather see global com­pa­nies with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent agenda, do so?

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