TACD events: A Transatlantic Consumer Perspective on TTIP

Members of the TACD Steering Committee and the Policy Chairs met in Brussels from 30-31 March 2015. In addition to holding their half-yearly internal meeting, participants took advantage of the gathering to promote the consumer view on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) further, via two different outreach events:

Workshop: “TTIP myths debunked – What’s really in it for consumers?”

IMG_7388Together with BEUC (The European Consumer Organisation), TACD held a small roundtable discussion on Tuesday, 31 March 2015, to explore two areas of the TTIP negotiations that have so far received little attention – the misperceptions surrounding the economic gains of the trade deal, as well as the system of technical barriers to trade on both sides of the Atlantic. The workshop brought together about 30 participants, including representatives from the European Commission, the United States Mission to the European Union, and a number of Member States.

For the introductory remarks of the first session, Rhoda Karpatkin, President Emeritus at Consumers Union, and Prof. Dr. Ferdi De Ville, Associate Professor at Ghent University, provided a critical assessment of the widely-cited economic studies that suggest positive economic effects of the TTIP. Pointing to the underlying methodologies and assumptions of these studies, Ferdi de Ville said “The claimed benefits of TTIP are small, uncertain, and biased.”

IMG_7437As TTIP aims to reduce barriers to EU-US trade from differences in technical product standards, so-called “technical barriers to trade (TBT)”, the second session addressed this important issue. In their remarks, Hervé Gauthier, Programme Manager at CEN-CENELEC, and Dr. R. David Pittle, formerly CPSC Commissioner and ANSI Board, explained the differences in how standards are developed and implemented in the EU and US, respectively. Concerning mutual recognition or harmonisation in whole sectors, David Pittle succinctly remarked that “Harmonisation outside the TTIP would be my recommendation and could be done easily and voluntarily.” Chiara Giovannini, Senior Manager at ANEC (The European Consumer Voice in Standardisation), emphasised the importance that standards play in consumer protection and thus called for a case-by-case approach of assessing TBT in TTIP.

Parliamentary Event: “Regulatory Aspects of TTIP: A Transatlantic Consumer Perspective”

Also on Tuesday, 31 March 2015, TACD representatives engaged with Members of the European Parliament on regulatory issues and standards, as well as technical barriers to trade in TTIP. Two members of the European Parliament – Maria Arena from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and Yannick Jadot from the Group of the Greens–European Free Alliance – hosted the event. With over 40 participants made up of Members of Parliament, their parliamentary assistants and political advisors from various parties in the European Parliament, the room was packed.

IMG_7518Given that the parliamentarians were very interested in hearing the perspective on TTIP from the US consumer leaders present, Robert Weissman, President at Public Citizen, and Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection at the Consumer Federation of America, assessed the impacts of the EU and (reported) US TTIP proposals concerning regulatory cooperation on consumer protection. Referring to a new TACD policy resolution on regulatory cooperation in TTIP, they underlined that “The proposals for regulatory cooperation would result in a big slowdown of the regulatory process, lead to more possibilities for industry lobbying, and likely impair the ability of regulatory authorities to protect public, environmental, and worker health and safety.”

On the panel concerning standards and technical barriers to trade, Caroline Smith DeWaal, Director of the food safety programme at the Center for Science in the Public Interest in the US, and Stephen Russell, Secretary-General at ANEC, highlighted the importance these measures play in ensuring consumer health and safety. In light of the huge differences between the US and EU in setting and implementing standards and technical barriers to trade, they pointed to major challenges in reaching a compromise.

What Next?

The events gave the opportunity for policymakers and legislators to hear and engage in frank discussions with consumer representatives from the US and the EU. TACD will of course continue to engage with these constituencies as the TTIP negotiations progress. As a next step, we are planning to organise the next TACD Annual Meeting, which will likely take place in October 2015 in Brussels. More information will be available soon.

More photos of the workshop and parliamentary event.