By John Michaelson
Minnesota News Connection
ST. PAUL, Minn. (July 17, 2014) — With the latest round of talks on a proposed trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union underway in Belgium, concerns are being raised here at home.
The aim of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or T-TIP, is to remove trade barriers and make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between Europe and the U.S. But Debbie Barker, international director of the Center for Food Safety, says she’s worried the deal may lead to a ceiling on health and food safety standards.
“Instead of setting a floor of standards,” says Barker, “a base standard that all parties agree to and which gives countries the flexibility to surpass it would be, in our view, the correct way to have standards set in trade agreements such as T-TIP.”
Barker says T-TIP could also undermine efforts in the U.S. to require labelling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Almost 70 percent of all processed foods now sold in U.S. supermarkets contain GMOs.
Another major concern Barker has with T-TIP and the ongoing talks is what she calls the lack of transparency.
“For other trade agreements such as the WTO or NAFTA agreements, negotiation texts were released after each round of negotiations,” she says, “Under the T-TIP, no new negotiation texts are being released. Even our government representatives are not able to freely view the text of a negotiation and an agreement, which in some cases can impact and overrule domestic laws and standards.”
Supporters of the trade agreement say it will help unlock opportunity for American families, workers, businesses, farmers and ranchers through increased access to European markets. Negotiations on T-TIP began one year ago in Washington D.C., while the latest round of talks is taking place in Brussels.