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Dispelling Myths About EU-US Trade Deal Negotiations

15/04/2014 12:38 BST | Updated 14/06/2014 10:59 BST

A few weeks ago, the Huffington Post ran an article making a number of assertions about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a deal currently being negotiated between the US and the EU that could boost both economies significantly. As a member of the European Parliament's International Trade Committee, I have been observing the negotiations firsthand for the past year or so, and would like to address the concerns expressed.

1. "The UK could be sued for risking company profits. Thanks to the proposed deal's "Investor State Dispute Settlement" (ISDS), companies will be able to sue governments whose regulations put future profits at risk. So fracking firms could take the government to court banning risky drilling, or private healthcare providers suing a government which protects the NHS."

While ISDS is not designed to allow firms to sue governments because they feel that they are not making enough money, it does allow investors to bring cases against governments who violate previously agreed investment treaties. Eight Member States of the EU already have ISDS provisions in their existing investment deals with the U.S. and have had no problem in implementing the entire body of EU laws governing issues from food safety, labour rights, social aspects of legislation, environmental protection etc.

We also need to recognise that the UK has already over ninety deals which include ISDS with other countries worldwide, and has never lost a case. However, each new agreement deserves careful consideration, and given the unprecedented level of public interest in this potential part of TTIP (the negotiating mandate given to the Commission by the Member States actually leaves its final inclusion subject to certain conditions) the Commission has opened a three month public consultation on an actual ISDS text. If you are interested in contributing to the debate you will find more details here - http://trade.ec.europa.eu/consultations/index.cfm?consul_id=179

2. "The UK could be forced to adopt other countries' rules. In order to trade under the TTIP, the UK could be forced to accept rules from other countries - which doesn't bode well for people complaining about the UK having too many laws from Brussels."

The UK is already forced to adopt other countries' rules under the qualified majority voting rules of the Single European Market. TTIP will not add more regulation- it is designed to find areas where regulation and rules already agreed in the EU and U.S. can be streamlined.

For example, currently cars sold on the U.S. and EU markets are obliged to undergo different testing systems to achieve the same result (has anyone ever felt less safe in a Chrysler as compared to a Renault?) TTIP could allow for safety inspectors on both sides of the Atlantic to agree that their testing methods, although different, produce similar outcomes, reducing compliance costs for car manufacturers, which means cheaper cars on forecourts and in salesrooms.

Another example is in pharmaceuticals. Currently products exported from companies in the EU to the U.S. need to be examined by U.S. regulators, despite them already being subject to almost identical safety rules in the EU. This double certification leads to the cost of some pharmaceutical products being higher than necessary.

If we can find instances where the inspections are identical or if we can have mutual recognition of each other's certification systems, this would reduce costs, which again would result in savings for consumers. But this is not only limited to large firms. TTIP will also be of benefit to smaller firms (SMEs) which are the lifeblood of our economy. For more information go to - http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2014/march/tradoc_152266.pdf

3. "Your wages will suffer. Unions are concerned that the weakened regulations will allow bosses to reduce wages and labour rights will suffer.'

The TTIP will have a strong sustainable development chapter, which includes labour rights provisions. In fact, Labour unions in the U.S. are not in principle against TTIP - http://www.aflcio.org/Issues/Trade/U.S.-EU-Free-Trade-Agreement-TTIP .

4. "Our food regulations could be watered down. So far so bureaucratic, but what could this mean? Thanks to the equalization of rules between the US and EU as part of the deal, the UK could be forced to relax regulations which could see the return of banned food products in Europe like chicken bleached with chlorine and growth hormones in beef."

The Commission has repeatedly said on the record, in the press and in the International Trade Committee of the European Parliament that hormone beef imports will not be part of TTIP. The agreement with Canada (CETA) does not allow for imports of hormone beef and neither will TTIP.

Anyone concerned about importing chickens from the U.S. which may have been washed with anti-microbial chemicals should be aware that there is already a procedure in place in the EU for deciding whether or not these chemicals are safe. Currently, chickens washed in this way are not imported and the procedure for overturning this ban is not part of the negotiations. However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently issued an overall positive assessment of peroxyacetic acid solutions as a sanitary wash for poultry carcasses and meat.

5. "Our environmental standards could be undermined. In order to match US standards, UK could be forced to reverse its ban on asbestos - which has been linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma."

This issue is not being negotiated in TTIP. The UK will keep its ban on asbestos.

6. "We're in the dark about much of the deal and you can do little to stop it . The deal is being thrashed out in secret by few people you've actually elected. Green Party MEP Keith Taylor tells HuffPostUK: "Even my colleagues who sit on the European Parliament's Trade Committee don't get a proper look at the negotiating document, and most MEPs don't get any say on the deal until we're presented it as a fait accompli."

The EU has rules in place which governs the access of the public to documents. MEPs and the UK Government will have access to the Commission's documents as it negotiates, allowing them to monitor the negotiations. In addition, the European Commission has released online all its initial position papers, including one on regulatory cooperation which can be found here - http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/press/index.cfm?id=943 as well as a TTIP website dedicated to informing the public on all aspect of the negotiations.

Multinationals will not have access to confidential papers, as this is not permitted under EU law. The U.S. is currently refusing to share with the EU and its Member States their papers, at least until a joint basis for further negotiations has been agreed with the Commission. We hope to gain greater access to these papers as the negotiations proceed.

If the TTIP negotiations cover issues other than trade, it becomes known as a "mixed agreement" and will have to be ratified by the British Parliament. Even if it remains purely a trade agreement, it will still need to be ratified by UK as a Member State of the EU. Therefore, the British Parliament will have the authority to instruct the British Government to block ratification in Brussels.

The elected European Parliament also has the right to approve or reject the agreement based on its own analysis of the final text. The negotiators and MEPs in the European Parliament have already been working closely with stakeholders on the scope and content of an agreement. During each round of negotiations, negotiators meet with several hundred stakeholders in order to answer questions about the progress of negotiations.

Democratic oversight and transparency is a core shared objective of the parties and Members of the European Parliament across the political spectrum are closely monitoring the different stages of the process in order to inform our citizens and to engage them in the process.