#LaunchAcademy: US-EU free trade? European consumers are dubious

The talks on free trade between the US and the EU are back on the table. Sure – a few months ago people were quite upset with the NSA and it really seemed like the States had shot themselves in the foot. Despite the scandal, negotiations are still going, with the second round of talks concluded last week in Brussels.

Corporations, industry representatives and politicians from both sides of the pond, have embraced the idea with passion, claiming that an 800 million-consumer market and a gigantic trading bloc with estimated gains of $159 billion, is essentially good news. Besides, what better way to confront China’s rapidly expanding economic growth? But the topic of establishing the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” (TTIP), which was also Obama’s main focus during his first Berlin visit as US president last June, seems to be the apple of discord: consumer advocates, environmental, health and internet activists, all join forces in building a barricade of opposition to the treaty. The reason – concerns that the US will push for weakening European consumer regulations.

usa-eu trade negotiations

The talks of a US-EU free trade agreement resumed with last week’s second round of negotiations // AFP

Indeed, there is a world of difference between health, safety and environmental regulations in the US and the EU. While American consumers don’t particularly mind eating “honey” made out of genetically modified corn syrup and thickeners, their European cousins are less inclined to do so. And let’s not kid ourselves here, it is modified: 2012 reports indicate that 88% of corn, 93% of soybeans and 95% of beets grown in the USA come from genetically modified seeds. With controversial corporations, such as Monsanto, navigating the market, many wonder whose interest is the US Food and Drug Administration defending. Curious fact: Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto attorney, got appointed a deputy commissioner of the FDA. Enough said?

Are European consumers pretentiously cautious? I don’t think so. And yet, despite all that resistance, the European Union has already discarded previous restrictions on certain American meat imports, such as beef washed in lactic acid and poultry washed in chlorine. Yummy.

Corporations have long been aware of such differences between European and American consumers. Would a treaty of these proportions significantly blurry such distinctions? For one thing, if GM crops reach European soil, there is no going back: once the crops are contaminated, it will take tens of years for them to recover, claims Percy Schmeiser, former spokesperson for independent farmers’ rights and a veteran in a legal struggle against Monsanto. If a transatlantic trade agreement is to be reached, it is the US that should tighten its regulations, not Europe weaken theirs. Quite frankly, I am a bit skeptical.The talks on free trade between the US and the EU are back on the table. Sure – a few months ago people were quite upset with the NSA and it really seemed like the States had shot themselves in the foot. Despite the scandal, negotiations are still going, with the second round of talks concluded last week in Brussels.

Corporations, industry representatives and politicians from both sides of the pond, have embraced the idea with passion, claiming that an 800 million-consumer market and a gigantic trading bloc with estimated gains of $159 billion, is essentially good news. Besides, what better way to confront China’s rapidly expanding economic growth? But the topic of establishing the “Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership” (TTIP), which was also Obama’s main focus during his first Berlin visit as US president last June, seems to be the apple of discord: consumer advocates, environmental, health and internet activists, all join forces in building a barricade of opposition to the treaty. The reason – concerns that the US will push for weakening European consumer regulations.

usa-eu trade negotiations

Indeed, there is a world of difference between health, safety and environmental regulations in the US and the EU. While American consumers don’t particularly mind eating “honey” made out of genetically modified corn syrup and thickeners, their European cousins are less inclined to do so. And let’s not kid ourselves here, it is modified: 2012 reports indicate that 88% of corn, 93% of soybeans and 95% of beets grown in the USA come from genetically modified seeds. With controversial corporations, such as Monsanto, navigating the market, many wonder whose interest is the US Food and Drug Administration defending. Curious fact: Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto attorney, got appointed a deputy commissioner of the FDA. Enough said?

Are European consumers pretentiously cautious? I don’t think so. And yet, despite all that resistance, the European Union has already discarded previous restrictions on certain American meat imports, such as beef washed in lactic acid and poultry washed in chlorine. Yummy.

Corporations have long been aware of such differences between European and American consumers. Would a treaty of these proportions significantly blurry such distinctions? For one thing, if GM crops reach European soil, there is no going back: once the crops are contaminated, it will take tens of years for them to recover, claims Percy Schmeiser, former spokesperson for independent farmers’ rights and a veteran in a legal struggle against Monsanto. If a transatlantic trade agreement is to be reached, it is the US that should tighten its regulations, not Europe weaken theirs. Quite frankly, I am a bit skeptical.