TTIP threatens public health and the environment, say experts
A GROUP OF German physicians and scientists has called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to use her influence to halt the TTIP trade deal between the US and Europe in the interests of public health and the environment.
The TTIP is being negotiated behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny. It threatens to drag Europe down to the same level as the US on GMO and food safety regulation, in the name of harmonising standards and removing trade barriers. Corporations will be able to sue governments that reject their risky products.
The growing trend of physicians and scientists speaking out in defence of public health and the environment is welcome. Another example is the 297 scientists and experts who signed a statement to the effect that there is no consensus on GMO safety.
Open letter to German Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel
* Appeal to halt negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
Dear Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel,
On February 13, 2013, the US-American president and representatives of the European Union announced their intent to negotiate a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the U.S. and the EU (also known as the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement/TAFTA).
With TTIP it is planned not only to remove tariffs (which, incidentally, are not particularly high), but, above all, to eliminate non-tariff trade barriers by aligning the different U.S. and the EU standards. These TTIP regulatory efforts would irrevocably change the foundation of our society and its future development.
Politicians as well as business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic are vigorously pursuing the TTIP. Negotiations are taking place behind closed doors and obviously under extreme time pressure. The treaty should be completed as early as 2015. We citizens are left out. All of this contradicts our understanding of a democratic society.
The U.S. journalist, Lori Wallach, commented on the project in Le Monde Diplomatique on November 8, 2013 as follows: “This Transatlantic Trade and investment Agreement (TTIP) intends to – similar to its predecessor MAI [Multilateral Agreement on Investment] – secure and broaden the privileges of corporations and investors. The US and the EU seek to align their respective standards in non-trade sectors. These "harmonisation" attempts serve, as expected, the interests of corporations and investors. If standards are not fulfilled, indefinite trade sanctions or gigantic compensation payments can be imposed.” The English journalist George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian on November 4, 2013 that “this transatlantic trade deal is a full-frontal assault on democracy” and of a treaty “that would let rapacious companies subvert our laws, rights and national sovereignty.”
The above-mentioned newspaper articles as well as television broadcasts (including Report München, Monitor) report on the problems of such an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), illustrating these with concrete examples. In addition, the media also demonstrates other hazards of the TTIP such as: lowering of European consumer protection and health standards; threats to agricultural, organic farming; openings for agro-biotechnology; reduction of social standards as well as climate and environmental protection requirements; new waves of privatisation in areas of basic public services and further deregulation of the financial sector.
The European Commission has responded to the legitimate concerns and fears of citizens and their loss of confidence in public policy making with targeted communication strategies (Managing Transparency, Leaked European Commission PR strategy). Nevertheless, so far 714,809 citizens have taken part in online petitions in opposition to TTIP in Germany. On May 22, 2014, these signatures were presented to the top candidates for the European Parliament by the action alliance ttip-unfairhandelbar. Numerous organisations (NGOs) on both sides of the Atlantic have made similar anti-TTIP appeals to decision makers.
From experience with previous free trade agreements and liberalisation, as well as from what has been leaked to the public concerning the current TTIP negotiations, we have also come to a position of concern about the TTIP between the U.S. and the EU.
We object to the aim of regulatory harmonisation that threatens current European environmental and health standards as well as the planned investor-state dispute settlement. It is unacceptable that, in investor-state dispute settlements, foreign investors may sue nations and governments for high compensation payments if laws reduce their profit expectations. This influence on legislation would be incompatible with principles of the rule of law and it is immoral.
Dear Madame Chancellor, we are therefore appealing to you to take a different political course, and to use your considerable influence to halt the TTIP negotiations. Rather than the TTIP and its risks and dangers to the common good we need a different orientation of policy. We are standing at the crossroads in many areas of society.
As an alternative to TTIP, it is essential to launch important future-oriented projects for a sustainable and viable society. Due to our responsibility as physicians and scientists, and as fathers and mothers, we therefore request:
* the creation of a social framework for responsible environmental resource management and its political implementation
* a consistent policy of GMO-free agriculture
* increased support for organic farming and organic farming research; the current minimal funding of organic farming is ecologically harmful and irresponsible towards future generations
* further development and implementation of the precautionary principle and improvements of appropriate standards for the reduction of health hazards caused by unhealthy food and environmental pollution
* that in matters relating to risk assessment and standardisation of products and processes, important environmental and health committees are made up of scientists independent of industry; the promotion of industry-independent research in these areas
* sovereignty in cultural policy and its promotion
* measures promoting a just society: the reduction of poverty among children and the elderly as well as the – between childhood and old age poverty – continuously growing working poverty; prevention of tax evasion; regulation of the financial sector; public accountability and responsibility for key areas of public services – health, education, water, housing, mobility, etc
In our striving to achieve a sustainable and viable society, we appeal to you to halt the secret TTIP negotiations.
Dear Madame Chancellor, our Constitution calls on you to prevent harm to the German people: We appeal to you to do this for us, our children, and grandchildren.
Prof. Dr. Dr. Karl-Frank Kaltenborn (Initiator), Marburg
Prof. Dr. Monika Krüger, Leipzig
Dr. Martha Mertens, München
PD Dr. Johannes Maria Becker, Marburg