Look out people, here come da SHAFT!
Aaaahhh… trade deals. An opportunity for the corporate leaders of the world to stick it to the little guys once again.
In this case the latest contender in the battle against food freedom in the form of “free trade agreements,” is the TTIP, or as it should be termed, the “eat, breathe and drink our poison or we will sue for loss of profits” deal.
Europe’s fears over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are not abating, while America is beginning to show signs of impatience. Europe and the United States have reached a standoff in the TTIP negotiations, over the question of the Investor State Dispute Settlement.
This mechanism could give companies the opportunity to take legal action against a state whose legislation has a negative impact on their economic activity.
“France did not want the ISDS to be included in the negotiation mandate,” Matthias Fekl told the French Senate. “We have to preserve the right of the state to set and apply its own standards, to maintain the impartiality of the justice system and to allow the people of France, and the world, to assert their values,” he added.
German opposition to the ISDS mechanism is also very strong. The German Minister for Economic Affairs has often expressed his support for the trade deal with the United States, on the condition that it does not include the ISDS.
And just what is this contentious ISDS?
Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is an instrument of public international law, that grants an investor the right to use dispute settlement proceedings against a foreign government. Provisions for ISDS are contained in a number of bilateral investment treaties, in certain international trade treaties, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (Chapter 11) and in international investment agreements, such as the Energy Charter Treaty. If an investor from country “A” (“Home State”) invests in country “B” (“Host State”), both of which have agreed to ISDS, and the Host State violates the rights granted to the investor under public international law, then that investor may bring the matter before an arbitral tribunal. While ISDS is often associated with arbitration under the rules of ICSID (the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes of the World Bank), it in fact often takes place under the auspices of international arbitral tribunals governed by different rules and/or institutions, such as the London Court of International Arbitration, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre or the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules.
So, let’s get this straight. If a country does not want to import another country’s genetically engineered food/feed (GMOs), it can be sued for putting up a barrier to trade, is that correct?
Straight from the horse’s mouth:
NON-TARIFF BARRIERS AND REGULATORY ISSUES
- We seek to eliminate or reduce non-tariff barriers that decrease opportunities for U.S. exports, provide a competitive advantage to products of the EU, or otherwise distort trade, such as unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) restrictions that are not based on science, unjustified technical barriers to trade (TBT), and other “behind-the-border” barriers, including the restrictive administration of tariff-rate quotas and permit and licensing barriers, which impose unnecessary costs and limit competitive opportunities for U.S. exports.
- While maintaining the level of health, safety and environmental protection our people have come to expect, we seek greater compatibility of U.S. and EU regulations and related standards development processes, with the objective of reducing costs associated with unnecessary regulatory differences and facilitating trade, inter alia by promoting transparency in the development and implementation of regulations and good regulatory practices, establishing mechanisms for future progress, and pursuing regulatory cooperation initiatives where appropriate;
- We seek to build on key principles and disciplines of the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) through strong cross-cutting disciplines and, as appropriate, through sectoral approaches, to achieve meaningful market access, and establish ongoing mechanisms for improved dialogue and cooperation on TBT issues;
- We seek to build on key principles and disciplines of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) to achieve meaningful market access, including commitments to base SPS measures on science and international standards or scientific risk assessments, apply them only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal, or plant life or health, and develop such measures in a transparent manner, without undue delay; and to establish an on-going mechanism for improved dialogue and cooperation addressing bilateral SPS issues.
Non-tariff barriers (NTBs) can decrease market opportunities for U.S. exports and provide unfair competitive advantages to EU products. These barriers take the form of restrictive licensing, permitting, and other requirements applied at the border, but also barriers behind the border, such as unwarranted technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures. Through T-TIP, we seek to identify ways to reduce costs associated with regulatory differences by promoting greater compatibility between our systems, while maintaining our high levels of health, safety, and environmental protection. Achieving an outcome that results in greater transparency, participation, and accountability in regulatory processes is also critical to addressing and preventing NTBs, and why we have made that a key part of our approach in T-TIP.
With respect to TBT, the United States and the EU already have a shared commitment and responsibility to prevent and reduce unnecessary TBTs through the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. But we know we can do more. Achieving our TBT objectives in T-TIP would mean going beyond existing commitments by setting us on a path to increase transparency and openness in the development of standards and technical regulations, ensure that U.S. bodies are permitted to test and certify products sold in Europe, promote EU recognition of international standards used to support global trade by U.S. exporters and producers, and establish an ongoing mechanism to discuss TBT concerns. Not only would our companies be more competitive, innovative, and efficient as a result, but T-TIP could set a positive example to other countries around the world.
For more information on TBT, visit www.ustr.gov/trade-agreements/wto-multilateral-affairs/wto-issues/technical-barriers-trade.
With respect to SPS, ensuring that the rules governing agricultural and food products are based on science and do not pose unwarranted obstacles to trade is as important to American farmers and ranchers as eliminating tariffs and quotas. If we successfully address certain SPS barriers in T-TIP, Europeans will be able to enjoy safe, high-quality U.S. beef, pork, poultry, and other products that we currently ship to consumers all over the world. In addition to eliminating barriers and opening markets for our farmers and ranchers, we seek to have the EU provide greater regulatory transparency and to engage in regular dialogues to help prevent barriers from being erected in the first place.
For more information on SPS, visit http://www.ustr.gov/trade-topics/agriculture/sanitary-and-phytosanitary-measures-and-technical-barriers-trade.
Since the United States has declared that GMOs are substantially equivalent to the original plants that they are replacing, then the stance is that any other testing is not science-based and totally unnecessary. Just trust us. GMOs are the same as any other organism. A GMO tomato is the same as an heirloom tomato. Ignore the bacteria, virus, and other foreign genetic material that was shot into it to make it a unique, patentable product.
So, the answer is a definitive YES. Get that? Any nation that signs a “free trade” agreement with the ISDS intact, is in fact agreeing to “eat, breathe and drink our poison or we will sue for loss of profits.”
Way to go, America/Monsanto! What’s the difference? They appear to be substantially equivalent too…
©2014 Barbara H. Peterson