Following publication of the so-called TTIP-leaks, the trade and investment agreement being negotiated between the EU and US is under sustained attack and consent seems to be eroding in Europe. But trade expert Alberto Alemanno says there is a difference between perception and reality. ClassEURACTIV reports.
Alberto Alemanno is Jean Monnet Professor of European Union Law and Regulation, and also the scientific director of the EU Public Interest Law Clinic established by HEC Paris and New York University School of Law.
Alemanno spoke to Angelo di Mambro of ClassEURACTIV, EURACTIV’s partner in Italy.
Are TTIP-leaks marking the end of TTIP?
In TTIP-leaks there is nothing new. They are used against the EU, but in fact they should be seen as a gift. It’s an argument in favour of its negotiating position, which I think comes out reinforced, thanks to the choice of transparency made by the Commission, which made public and accessible the European position on all chapters of the negotiations.
From TTIP-leaks the EU emerges as resisting the demands of the Americans, who sometimes behave like bullies.
Does this mean the Commission is weak?
I do not believe so. Let’s observe the reactions to TTIP-leaks: The upset party was the US State Department, perhaps because they realised they did not make the right choices in terms of transparency.
So no interruption of the negotiations?
The negotiations are proceeding and the TTIP-leaks have not changed their terms, or the calendar. The disciplinary meetings between the parties, held between rounds of official talks, are continuing. I recently attended a meeting of this type on the area of my responsibility, regulatory cooperation.
The one that could pave the way to the lowering of standards and the abandonment of the precautionary principle, especially in the agri-food sector?
This perception is completely false. Both EU and US make regulatory decisions of the risks based on the precautionary principle, as decisions are based primarily on consensus of stakeholders and citizens.
Some standards in the United States are higher than ours. For example, the use of antibiotics in organic farming is more flexible in Europe than in the United States. Yet it is already in force an equivalence treaty between the US and EU organic production, which has found a way to overcome this difference.
And what about meat with hormones?
The United States benefit from a quota for exports of hormone-free beef to EU, the result of the endless controversy that began in the nineties at WTO level ― and it still fails to fill the quota.
That’s because they do not produce enough hormone-free beef…
Yes, they are facing a growing domestic demand for meat without hormones, as American consumers want more.
According to the French trade minister also Italy should stand firm on TTIP. What’s your opinion?
In Italy we should do more fact-checking, and bring out the result of the numerous studies showing that an agreement is convenient to us. Italian authorities should fix this information asymmetry as the debate is currently built on totally biased foundations.