By Heini Järvinen

On 26 June 2015, the Belgian EDRi member Liga voor Mensenrechten, together with a wide coalition of other Belgian human rights and consumer organisations, trade union confederations, and environmental and development NGOs, published a declaration asking for an immediate suspension of the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that are currently ongoing between the United States (US) and the European Union (EU).

The declaration calls for the suspension of the negotiations above all for the defence of fundamental freedoms and rights. One of the main concerns mentioned in the declaration is the risk of suppression of existing European regulation concerning data protection, which would mean undermining the respect of privacy, for economic reasons. The text also mentions a number of other threats that TTIP is posing to Belgian and European citizens, such as the potential negative impact on employment, the healthcare sector, consumer safety, and social and environmental standards.

The coalition emphasises that the negotiations simply cannot continue within the current framework, and that if the negotiations were to be restarted, a fundamentally different mandate has to be adopted. The mandate should not include clauses for Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), an instrument of public international law giving multinational companies the right to sue states and challenge legislation before special tribunals, if they believe their expected profits are being undermined. There should not be harmonisation of regulations that could lead into lower social standards or consumer and environmental protection, and the highest priority should be given to promoting public services, general interest and citizens’ rights, rather than trade and financial interests.

The need for a truly transparent and democratic process is also highlighted in the declaration. This would require that the negotiation texts and agenda are shared with national governments and civil society organisations, and that they are regularly consulted for their views. Also precise impact assessments to evaluate the effects of the negotiated measures should be conducted.

Lastly, the declaration points out that TTIP is not the only trade agreement under discussion, but that other similar agreements, such as the Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement (CETA), a draft treaty between EU and Canada, likely to come up for ratification before to TTIP, that are similarly undermining European citizens’ fundamental rights and our democracy.

Transatlantic trade agreements: Belgian civil society united against deregulating and non democratic trade agreements (only in French, 26.06.2015)
http://www.cncd.be/IMG/pdf/declarationcommunettip-ceta-be.pdf

Immediate suspension of the TTIP negotiations (only in Flemish, 26.06.2015)
http://www.mo.be/opinie/onmiddellijke-opschorting-van-de-onderhandelingen-over-ttip

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