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Trade Ministers Discuss Halting or Reforming the US-EU Trade Talks

Brussels, Belgium, 26 September 2016 – The French Trade Minister Matthias Fekl and the Austrian Vice-Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner proposed halting the EU-US trade talks, known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership or TTIP, during an informal meeting of trade ministers in Bratislava, Slovakia. Trade ministers also discussed the ratification of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada which has been urged to reject by many civil society groups.

While ministers decided to continue TTIP negotiations, it is unlikely that an agreement would be reached before US President Barack Obama leaves office in January.

At the same time, German Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Matthias Machnig requested that member states give the European Commission a new mandate to negotiate the agreement.

“If member countries feel we need a new mandate, that is to be decided,” said the European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström during the press conference following the ministerial meeting.

In public statements earlier this month, Austrian, Belgian, French and German politicians questioned whether the trade talks should continue. “The proposal to halt the negotiations is a response to the calls from the public. It demonstrates the political will to halt the current race to the bottom trade negotiations and instead drive a trade agenda that is fair and will be in the long-term interests of people and the environment,” says David Azoulay, Senior Attorney and Environmental Health Program Director at the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL).

“While this is a small step to the right direction, trade ministers also signaled their intention to move forward and sign the EU-Canada trade deal, known as CETA. This decision is a paradox as CETA poses similar threats to democracy, public health, and the environment. Both parties will now discuss whether to agree on an accompanying declaration, yet it is hard to imagine that such a declaration would address the serious concerns with the current text,” adds Azoulay.

Last month activists filed a complaint against CETA’s early implementation to the German Constitutional Court.

Génon Jensen, Executive Director at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) commenting on the informal meeting, "The TTIP negotiators have crossed a number of the European Parliament’s ’red lines’ established to protect people’s health from chemicals, particularly endocrine disrupting chemicals’’.

"It is no wonder that politicians are considering replacing the current mandate for the European Commission to negotiate the agreement", she adds.

A new campaign to protect EU chemical laws

Over the past months HEAL has actively engaged on TTIP, launching in particular a campaign with the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) to ensure that the trade partnership does not undermine EU chemicals law.

HEAL recently joined its member organisation the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and other civil society groups and trade unions to call on the EU trade ministers to reject the CETA agreement. The groups argue that CETA threatens public policies through its investment dispute resolution mechanism, brings no benefits to Europe’s citizens, and endangers the delivery of high quality public services. Read the joint press release here

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Media Contacts:

David Azoulay Senior Attorney and Environmental Health Program Director, CIEL, Tel: +41 22 789 05 00, e-mail: dazoulay@ciel.org.

Genon K. Jensen, Executive Director, HEAL, Mobile: +32 2 234 3641, E-mail: genon@env-health.org.

Note for editors:

CIEL and HEAL coordinate a campaign — TTIP: Private profit versus public health — which calls on negotiators to 1) exclude chemicals, pesticides and other sensitive sectors from the EU-US trade talks; 2) exclude all elements of the current EU deregulatory agenda from being embedded in a legally binding trade agreement; and 3) exclude all provisions that would enable multinational corporations to bypass domestic courts and sue the EU and its Member States, via the so-called Investor State Dispute Settlement or Investment Court System.

Resources:

  • Germany and France push for pause in EU-US trade talks (Financial Times): link.
  • Open letter 65+ NGOs sent to President Schulz: link.
  • Campaign website: link.
  • NGOs launch massive lawsuit against EU-Canada trade deal (DeutscheWelle): link.
  • EU-U.S. trade talks seem unbalanced, may need pause: Belgian PM (Reuters): link.
  • Austrian economy minister adds his ‘nein’ to TTIP debate (Reuters): link.

    Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) – Founded in 1989, CIEL uses the power of law to protect the environment, promote human rights, and ensure a just and sustainable society. CIEL is dedicated to advocacy in the global public interest through legal counsel, policy research, analysis, education, training, and capacity building.

    The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) — HEAL is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life.

Last updated on 27 September 2016

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

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