The controversial trade deal being negotiated between the EU and the US could spell disaster for European farming, finds a new report from Friends of the Earth Europe.
The report ‘Trading away EU farmers’ reviews modelling studies carried out in the EU and US on the impacts of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The report concludes that TTIP will massively increase imports from the US, while having far fewer benefits for EU producers. Studies foresee a decline of up to 0.8% for EU agriculture’s contribution to gross domestic product, while US agriculture's contribution to it will increase by 1.9% - a net trade benefit to US interests of over 4 billion euros.
This is predicted to result in many farmers across the EU facing stronger competition and lower prices, threatening farm businesses across Europe, as well as having negative impacts on rural areas and on consumer interests.
According to the report, the existence of whole EU farm sectors - such as grassland beef production – will be at risk from the agreement. The US Department of Agriculture is predicting falls in the price paid to European farmers in every food category.
Mute Schimpf, food campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, said:
“TTIP will be a bad deal for European farming. The majority of EU farmers are predicted to lose out and with many of them already struggling to survive this could be the final knock-out blow. There is real concern that European farming is being sacrificed to get a TTIP deal at any costs. ”
The report says that corporate lobby groups, in both the US and Europe, are pushing for greater access to each other’s agricultural markets, with the US in particular targeting Europe’s generally higher safety and animal welfare standards. However, even if EU standards are maintained, increased imports from the US will still flood European markets, ensuring huge export opportunities and profits for food corporations and US factory farms at the expense of European farmers.
Mute Schimpf continued:
“The main winners from the TTIP deal will be corporate food giants and US factory farms who already have bigger economies of scale and lower production costs. Any removal of EU restrictions will mean a huge increase in imports and could be the final nail in the coffin for some EU farming sectors.”
In terms of gains for EU agriculture, the report says these will be restricted to just a few sectors, such as cheese, but even these are dependent on the US giving way on ‘non-tariff measures’ that it uses to restrict trade.
The European Commission’s focus on Geographical Indications - products that have a specific geographical origin and have reputations based on origin - is also questionable, because the benefits seem likely to be restricted to just three EU countries (France, the UK and Italy) and just a few products such as cheese, champagne and whisky.
The report highlights that consumer and environmental protection may suffer too, because both US government and producer organisations are openly calling for the EU to weaken protection in areas such as the approval of GM foods, pesticide safety rules and the bans on hormones and pathogen washes in meat production.
Twenty Agriculture Ministers have recently raised concerns about the cumulative impact on EU agriculture from the TTIP, the Mercosur agreement and the on-going Canadian trade deal (CETA), forcing the European Commission to conduct an impact assessment, due in September.