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The Trans-Atlantic "Free Trade" Agreement (TAFTA)

U.S. and European Corporations' Latest Venue to Attack Consumer and Environmental Safeguards?

The safety standards on which we rely daily for our food, medicines and cars. The energy and climate policies needed to save our planet. The new financial regulations designed to prevent banks from gambling with our money and creating another crisis. These are policies that should be determined in open, democratic venues where we have a say.

But a group of the largest U.S. and European banks, agribusinesses and other powerful industry groups want to rewrite these safeguards behind closed doors. For over a decade, they have pushed for a new U.S. "trade" deal with Europe – the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), which corporate proponents have tried to rebrand as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – a deal that would chill protections on both sides of the Atlantic. Launched in July 2013, TAFTA negotiations are currently underway.

Factsheets: TAFTA's Threats
to Consumers and the Environment

The corporations advising TAFTA negotiators have bluntly named the consumer and environmental safeguards that the deal should dismantle:

TAFTA's Top Ten Threats to U.S. Consumers

Wall Street: Roll Back Financial Reforms

Agribusiness: Weaken Food Safety Standards

Oil and Gas Corporations: Halt Green Energy Policies

Monsanto, et al: Remove GMO Labels and Limits

Chemical Corporations: Allow Exposure to Untested Chemicals

Transnational Corporations: Empower Investor Attacks on Safeguards

Chronic Job Offshorers: Ban Buy American, Buy Local and Buy Green Policies

Corporate think tanks: Debunking Bogus Claims of TTIP Economic Gains

In the official document outlining TAFTA, the Obama administration has made clear that TAFTA will not primarily target trade, but "behind-the-border" policies such as health, environmental and financial protections. U.S. and European corporations call these safeguards on which we all rely "trade irritants," and have asked that they be eliminated via TAFTA:

  • European agribusiness corporations have listed U.S. safety standards for Grade A milk as an “obstacle” that they hope can be removed via TAFTA. They acknowledge that the standards “were devised as a means of addressing the risk of food borne illnesses,” but express hope the standards can be weakened because complying with them “is both highly cumbersome and expensive.”

  • European banks have openly targeted U.S. financial regulations enacted after the 2008 financial crisis to rein in Wall Street, calling the new financial stability policies "barriers to trade" that should be watered down via TAFTA.

  • The deregulatory wishlists of European and U.S. corporations reveal that the deal could also threaten climate policies, food safety labels, chemical safeguards, Buy Local preferences and data privacy.

Incredibly, Obama administration officials, and their European counterparts, have also proposed that TAFTA include the extreme investor privileges of past "trade" deals. These extraordinary privileges have empowered foreign corporations to circumvent domestic courts and drag sovereign governments before extrajudicial tribunals authorized to order taxpayer compensation for public interest policies. But U.S. and European domestic courts and property laws are among the strongest in the world. Including such provisions in TAFTA would only empower corporations with a new way to attack our laws and grab our tax dollars.

Groups Highlighting
TAFTA's Threats:

Center for Effective Government

Center for Food Safety
Coalition for Sensible Safeguards
Consumer Federation of America
Economic Policy Institute
Food and Water Watch
National Consumers League
Public Citizen
Sierra Club

Foreign corporations have used these privileges when included in past "trade" deals to attack domestic renewable energy policies, patent standards, bans on toxins, and green jobs programs, extracting more than $3 billion so far from taxpayers under U.S. deals. The foreign tribunals authorized to rule against such domestic policies and order compensation are comprised of three private attorneys, many of whom rotate between acting as "judges" and bringing cases against the governments on behalf of the corporations.

If this extreme system is expanded through TAFTA as proposed, the thousands of European corporations with U.S. subsidiaries (and vice versa) would be newly empowered to attack domestic health, environmental and financial safeguards that they claim frustrate their expectations. The tribunals would be authorized to order taxpayer compensation to the foreign corporations for the "expected future profits" they surmise would be inhibited by the challenged policies. This radical provision alone makes TAFTA an unacceptable liability for consumers, workers and the environment.

Reports and Memos  |  Press Room  |  Congress Speaks Out  |  Civil Society Speaks Out

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