The delay to trade talks between the EU and US, which were due to start in Brussels today, must be used to address the risks a deal represents to people and the environment, says Friends of the Earth Europe.
The negotiations were put on hold on Friday evening when it was announced that the US delegation would not be travelling to Europe due to the current shutdown of parts of the US administration.
Friends of the Earth Europe is highly concerned about the threat the EU-US trade deal – known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – poses to environmental, social and consumer standards and safeguards. The group is calling on negotiators to use this delay as 'thinking time' to make sure the interests of people and the environment are given priority over business interests.
Many corporations are already lobbying for a deal that is in their private interests, for example, against measures to prevent the import of dirty tar sands from the US and Canada to Europe, and against EU food protection measures which make it harder for US companies to export GMOs.
Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Decision-makers on both sides of the Atlantic now have extra thinking time and they need to realise that an EU-US trade deal can only help get us out of the economic and climate crises if it has the interests of people and the planet at its heart. Big corporations will undoubtedly be using this delay to continue lobbying for weaker standards, especially on issues related to food, agriculture, chemicals and energy. Our health and safety must not be traded away for an agreement that would mainly profit big corporations or limit states' ability to regulate."
Friends of the Earth Europe insists that, as part of the deal, companies and investors should not receive excessive rights to legally challenge democratically adopted measures through a so-called 'investor state dispute settlement'. It says a partnership should only be agreed if it results in higher standards for the environment, safety and consumer protection and if the ability of governments to make new legislation is not weakened.
The group is also concerned about the lack of transparency of the negotiations so far and is calling for the public to be given access to negotiation documents.