By Joe Kirwin
March 17 —The European Union will not extend mutual recognition to U.S. chemical safety laws because the EU system of regulatory framework known as REACH is superior, the EU’s chief negotiator for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership said.
Speaking at a European Parliament public hearing on TTIP hosted by the Committee for Internal Market, chief EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero told members that while the EU and U.S. are trying to find areas of convergence and potential mutual recognition in certain sectors, chemicals would not be one of them.
“Mutual recognition between the EU and the U.S. when it comes to the chemical sector will not be possible because the EU regulatory laws are superior to those in the U.S.,” Garcia Bercero said.
Chief U.S. negotiator Dan Mullaney, who made a presentation at the hearing, rejected his EU counterpart’s claim as he insisted that the overall safety protections of U.S. chemical regulations are equal to those of the EU.
The clash over chemical safety and TTIP at the EP hearing echoed similar arguments heard March 12 when stakeholders made presentations to EU and U.S. negotiators in the midst of the fourth round of TTIP talks that took place March 10-14. During the March 12 event, Baskat Tuncat of the Center for International Law said the EU and the U.S. chemical industry are trying to use TTIP to undermine, among other things, legislation concerning chemicals that interfere with hormonal systems such as endocrine disrupting chemicals.
The EU-based chapter of the American Chamber of Commerce—known in EU circles as AMCHAM, whose members are leading U.S. multinationals doing business in the EU—released its TTIP position paper March 17. AMCHAM wants the TTIP agreement to contain:
In the run up to the fourth round of TTIP talks and during the March 12 stakeholder conference, numerous participants, especially from consumer, labor and environmental groups, accused EU and U.S. negotiators of conducting the negotiations in secrecy. Those complaints were echoed by numerous members of the European Parliament (EP) at the March 17 hearing.
The chairman of the EP's Committee for International Trade insisted the swirl of criticism concerning TTIP and negotiating text transparency is a myth. The EU law-making body has better access to EU-TTIP negotiating texts compared to any other previous EU bilateral free trade agreements, Vital Moreira said.
Moreira said it is important to separate myth from fact when it comes to the issue of TTIP and transparency.
“It is important to recognize that European Parliament members have more access to EU negotiating text than they ever have had in the past when it comes to a bilateral free trade agreement,” Moreira said. “The claims made today and made previously about TTIP being conducted in secrecy are simply not accurate.”
However, Moreira said the U.S. Trade Representative is still refusing to provide copies of its negotiating text to members of the EP.
“The U.S. side insists it will not provide copies of their negotiating texts because they do not provide them to the U.S. Congress or other parts of the executive branch,” Moreira said. “But we are working on that and hopefully we will make progress.”
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