What is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a free trade deal currently being negotiated between the European Commission and the US government. Its stated aim is to remove trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors in order to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the two partners.
We want negotiators to make a proactive consumer agenda the starting point for this trade agreement
Is it a good thing?
A deal done well would mean consumers could be offered a wider variety of products at lower prices. We want negotiators to make a proactive consumer agenda the starting point for this trade agreement, one which should not deliver a reduction in standards, but focus on actual consumer issues such as making imports of personal purchases cheaper or decreasing transatlantic roaming charges.
Or should I be worried?
- In the EU we believe prevention is better than cure, that’s why we apply strict safety rules throughout the production chain. Food not produced according to those same rules should not end up on our plates.
- There are substantial differences on both sides of the Atlantic in the regulation of cosmetics; the EU bans 1,328 hazardous chemicals, while the US bans only 11. ‘Freeing’ trade on cosmetics would not be the solution.
- Under current EU laws, consumers have a series of data protections and fundamental rights which do not exist in the US. With personal data high on the agenda of a negotiated trade deal, consumers might see these essential protection standards undermined. That’s why we call for data flows to be excluded from the TTIP negotiations.
- Granting more power to pharmaceutical companies on pricing and reimbursement decisions could lead to less affordable medicines in Europe. This is being demanded by the industry, but European consumers certainly do not need it to happen.
- Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) is a legal mechanism which allows foreign corporations to sue governments before special tribunals comprised of three private arbitrators if they feel their investments are ‘endangered’ by government decisions. This would include public interest policies on tobacco, obesity, minimum wages and nuclear safety policies. We want ISDS to be discarded from the TTIP negotiations.
What can I do?
Negotiations are being conducted behind closed doors, a method which does not feed trust and prompts cautiousness amongst European citizens. Transparency can help risks to consumer protections to be flagged and addressed early in the negotiating process.You can call upon your national and European representatives to demand full transparency in the TTIP negotiations now!
Join your voice for full transparency with the voice of national and international NGOs! This is the only way our demands be known and respected!
Negotiations started in July 2013 and until April 2015, 9 rounds of discussions have taken place with specific sectors-items on the agenda. The final agreement would have 24 chapters, grouped together in 3 parts:
The fact that negotiations were taking place behind closed doors triggered negative reactions
The fact that negotiations were taking place behind closed doors triggered negative reactions; access to the negotiation texts was limited to a very small number of officials while elected representatives in both sides of Atlantic were excluded. Moreover, the fast track procedure was meaning that the elected representatives hadn’t any right to propose amendments; they just could accept or deny the Treaty’s ratification.
However, despite the extreme secrecy, several documents with EU and USA proposals systematically leaked; their content gradually roused a storm of reactions around the world. Why? Because, if the proposed were agreed, it was loomed clearly that, the level of consumer and environmental protection, health, safety, human and workers rights would be downgraded significantly, especially for Europeans who enjoy better protection than the Americans.
Scientists, UN experts, consumer, environmental and other NGOs, Members and Political Groups of the EU Parliament, Members of the US Congress demanded and a greater transparency was achieved.
The European Commission was obliged to set up a stakeholders Consultative Group, in which, several representatives of Civil Society participate, however, with no right to disclosure the content of discussions; at this stage, it is requested by them to be allowed to consult their colleagues who are experts in specific issues of the agenda.
Today the full negotiation texts and the EU proposals, at least in some agenda items, are published on http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=1230.
Moreover, regular updates and hearings are taking place on the initiative of the European Commission.
Unfortunately, USA still resists pressure and continues to deny disclosure of their negotiation texts and proposals.
Although not full transparency achieved yet, the even partial disclosure is a progress made under the society’s pressure.
The gradual transparency achieved by civil society, proves that if they join forces with their elected representatives and scientists at national and international level, a lot can be attained and result in a transatlantic agreement that would have the maximum benefits for citizens.
For more detailed information about consumer view on TTIP you can visit:
- The website of our consumer Transatlantic forum http://tacd.org/topics/policy/ttip
- The specific blog of our European Federation of consumer associations http://www.beuc.eu/blog/
What is EKPIZO (http://www.ekpizo.gr/)
EKPIZO – Consumers’ Association “The Quality of Life” was established in 1988 aiming at protecting consumer rights and improving the quality of life. It is a nongovernmental, nonprofit making and accredited association
EKPIZO’s activities are financially supported by its members’ subscription fees and subsidies from E.U. or other public institutions. It is administered by the Council (7 members) and has 20.470 regular members.
EKPIZO has two branches, in Thessaloniki and Patras since April 2010 and July 2011 respectively.
EKPIZO policy areas/activities include legal, economic, financial,
insurance, health, food, environment, safety and consumer education issues.
Within this framework:
- Gives information/advice to the individual consumer and handles their complaints. So far the complaints of about 174.000 consumers have been addressed
- Represents consumers in several national and international committees
- Takes legal actions (collective and class actions) on behalf of consumers with a favorable outcome and over 4 million € have been returned to consumers
- Has significant experience in Out of Court dispute settlement as 90% of consumer disputes handled so far have been amicably settled and over 16 million € have been returned to the consumers concerned
- Has significant experience in simplifying scientific issues intended for the general public
- Cooperates with other consumer NGO’s at national, European and international level
- Cooperates with competent authorities, universities, research centers at national and European level
- Conducts studies and researches
- Publishes books, leaflets, newsletter
- Organizes conferences/seminars, campaigns, addresses speeches to target groups
- Has established a national network of over 200 schools supporting their consumer education activities
- Has coordinated for 5 years the EU project ‘Young European Consumer Competition’
- Has undertaken several seminars intended for teachers training on consumer protection issues and has developed relevant educational material
- Gives speeches to teachers, students of primary / secondary education, parents’ and other associations, about consumer protection, food and health issues.
- So far has carried out 86 national and EU projects while other 4 (1 EU and 3 national) are running.
 EKPIZO has filed over 50 collective actions against 76 private companies for misleading advertising-unfair contract terms-violation of the Consumer Protection Law; Also has filed 476 class actions and 964 for individual members with favorable decisions for the judged so far.
Brief C.V. of Eleni Alevritou
Eleni Alevritou is a specialized medical doctor (Pathologist), member of several medical societies with several publications in Greek and international scientific journals.
In parallel, she has been involved with consumer and environmental NGOs. She is a founding member and president of EKPIZO (Consumers Association the Quality of Life) ever since.
In addition to her responsibilities as president, she is also responsible for national-international relations with official bodies-research centers-universities-NGO’s, for health- nutrition- food safety-hygiene-environment-standardization and consumer education issues and for supervising national and EU projects’ execution.