Two Leaks Reveal How TAFTA/TTIP’s Regulatory Co-operation Body Will Undermine Sovereignty And Democracy

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
By Paul Martin

by Glyn Moody
Mon, Feb 2nd 2015

It has long been evident that TAFTA/TTIP is not a traditional trade agreement — that is, one that seeks to promote trade by removing discriminatory local tariffs on imported goods and services. That’s simply because the tariffs between the US and EU are already very low — under 3% on average. Removing all those will produce very little change in trading patterns. The original justification for TTIP recognized this, and called for “non-tariff barriers” to be removed as well.

Those “non-tariff barriers” include regulations and standards introduced to protect the public — for example, through health and safety laws or environmental regulations. Removing those “barriers” in order to increase trade might be great for companies, but increases the social costs through weakened protection for the environment, or greater health risks. The outcry caused by this prospect has led both negotiating parties to insist that TTIP will not lower standards.

But it’s hard to see how those non-tariff barriers can be harmonized without a race to the bottom in terms of regulations, since no one is calling for a race to the top. Even “mutual recognition,” which would allow both standards to be used, would inevitably see the lower standard becoming the norm because it would be cheaper to implement, and thus offer competitive advantages.

However, a leak back in December 2013 gave a clue about how it might be possible for the US and EU governments to promise that the TAFTA/TTIP agreement would not lower standards, and yet provide a way to dismantle those non-tariff barriers (pdf). This would be achieved after TTIP was ratified, through the creation of a new body called the Regulatory Council, which would play a key role in how future regulations were made. Effectively, it would provide early access to all new regulations proposed by the US and EU, allowing corporations to voice their objections to any measures that they felt would impede transatlantic trade. This regulatory ratchet would push standards downwards and reduce costs for business, but only gradually, and after TTIP had come into force — at which point, nothing could be done about it.

The Rest…HERE

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