31 March 2015

Remember ACTA? The Commission is using the same rhetoric for TTIP. And it's not going to work.

TTIP myths document "utterly fails" to address genuine concerns argues Max Andersson MEP

Greens/EFA Group, European Parliament

Recently the European Commission released a document entitled “The top 10 myths about TTIP”. The Commission is trying to refute well-grounded criticisms against TTIP by suggesting that they're simply “myths” and “misconceptions”. If this might sound familiar, that’s because it is.

A title like “Separating fact from fiction” surely has a lot to prove when it comes to debunking the supposed myths around this agreement. However, the Commission’s paper utterly fails in doing so. The strategy seems to be simply exaggerate a claim made by the critics, like “TTIP will force EU governments to privatise the public services we all rely on”, only to debunk it by saying “no it won´t”. No facts, not a single rebuttal is given on any of the arguments made by independent studies showing the potential risks of the TTIP negotiations, or the known proposals from both the EU and US sides.

But this is not the first time that the Commission has decided to portray criticisms against a controversial trade agreement as “myths”. In a nearly identical paper dated a few years ago, the Commission tried to renounce allegations that the ACTA agreement would threaten fundamental rights and access to generic medicines. The paper, entitled “10 myths about ACTA”, makes a very similar attempt to claim that the criticisms against the agreement were all myths and misconceptions.

However, several independent studies showed that, despite the promises of the Commission, the agreement constituted a threat to generic medicines and was in violation of the EU charter of fundamental rights. The European Parliament thus chose to reject ACTA. Apparently now, with their TTIP-paper, the Commission has chosen to forget all about this.

I have asked the Commission if they have fact-checked their new TTIP document any better this time, and I am eagerly awaiting their reply.

Heavy influence of big business 

Just as with ACTA, independent studies have shown that the TTIP negotiations include several risky areas, not only the controversial ISDS-mechanism but also regarding food safety, chemicals and regulatory cooperation, to name but a few. TTIP, just as ACTA, has been influenced by business lobbies to a very large extent. There is a major risk that the agreement will be heavily tilted towards economic interests of the most powerful at the expense of the protection of people and the environment.

We have got some figures that illustrate this. With ACTA, the EU Commission conducted two stakeholder meetings (23 June 2008 and 21 April 2009). The purpose of the meetings was to briefly inform about the concept of ACTA, as well as receive comments from stakeholders about their views, expectations and concerns. At the meeting on 23 June 2008, a total of 94 representatives from stakeholders participated. More than 90 % of the participants represented big business. The second meeting was even worse, with only 5 out of 110 participants representing NGO's. 

When preparing for the TTIP negotiations in 2012 and 2013, the European Commission’s had 560 stakeholder encounters. 520 of those (92%) were with business lobbyists. Do you see a pattern emerging?

The Commission needs to wake up and realize that the risks regarding TTIP, be it on the area of agriculture, chemicals, ISDS, energy, services or regulatory cooperation, are indeed very real. ACTA set a powerful precedent in what can happen when the Commission ignores legitimate fears and concerns about the impact of a so called ”trade agreement”. By once again resorting to petty tactics like portraying well founded fears and risks as “myths”, the Commission, instead of properly addressing peoples concerns, risk throwing the whole agreement out of the window. 

ACTA, if anything, should have taught the Commission that treating people as if they are unable to think for themselves is generally a very bad idea.  

10 myths TTIP:

10 myths ACTA:

Studies critical of ACTA:

TTIP lobbying:
ACTA lobbying:

Watch: TTIP & transparency- what's really going on below the surface here.

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“No facts, not a single rebuttal is given on any of the arguments made by independent studies showing the potential risks of the TTIP negotiations, or the known proposals from both the EU and US sides.”

You criticize the myths document for not making specific references but you fail to reference the “independent studies” from the very same sentence.

I like your article, and that you linked several studies for ACTA, but how are we supposed to know that the criticisms of TTIP are legitimate when there are no official references confirming that?

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