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.
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.
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
- See our TAFTA factsheet series in the box above.
- Prosperity Undermined: The Status Quo Trade Model's 21-Year Record of Massive U.S. Trade Deficits, Job Loss and Wage Suppression (August 20, 2015)
- Raw Deals for Small Businesses: U.S. Small Firms Have Endured Slow and Declining Exports under "Free Trade" Deals (June 22, 2015)
- Debunking Ten Common Defenses of Controversial Investor-State Corporate Privileges (May 11, 2015)
- U.S. Experience Shows Structural Incentives Favoring Corporations in Investor-State System Not Fixable via Changes to Trade Pact Terms (December 15, 2014)
- Public Citizen, Progressive Organizations Call on USTR Froman to Disclose Communications with Largest Financial Institutions (May 28, 2015)
- Lawyers Write to Congressional Leaders to Oppose the Inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Provisions in the TPP (March 11, 2015)
- Consumer Federation of America – How the EU/US Trade Agreement Impacts Product Safety and the Regulatory Process (December 17, 2014)
- Center for Effective Government – Industry Control vs. Safety: The Ineffective United States Chemical Regulation Regime (December 17, 2014)
- 52 U.S. and EU Organizations Send Open Letter on TAFTA and Financial Regulations to U.S. and EU Negotiators (October 1, 2014)
- Coalition of Businesses and Civil Society Organizations write to Ambassador Froman Expressing Concerns About TAFTA Proposals that Would Threaten GMO Labeling Efforts (September 30, 2014)
- 111 Consumer, Health, Environmental, Labor Groups Warn Trade Ministers About TAFTA Proposals on Chemicals That Would Endanger Public Health (July 10, 2014)
- Coalition of 177 Civil Society Organizations Express Concern About Proposals for "Regulatory Cooperation" under TAFTA (May 12, 2014)
- Public Citizen, More Than 40 Other Organizations Call for Public Consultations on Investor Rights in Trade Deals (February 28, 2014)
- Americans for Financial Reform: Coalition of 250 Civil Society Organizations Expresses Concern about Financial Deregulation in the TPP and TAFTA (December 19, 2013)
- Civil society coalition letter to USTR Froman and Commissioner de Gucht in opposition to including investor-state dispute resolution in TAFTA (December 16, 2013)
- Civil society coalition letter to President Barack Obama, President José Manuel Barroso, and President Herman Van Rompuy on concerns with TAFTA negotiations (November 11, 2013)
- Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue warns of TAFTA's threats to financial regulation (October 2013)
- Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue issues statement against investor privileges in TAFTA (October 2013)
- Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue warns of TAFTA's threats to food safety (October 2013)
- Initial reaction of EU and U.S. consumer groups of the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue to the announcement of a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) in letter to USTR Kirk and Commissioner De Gucht (March 5, 2013)