Consumers in transatlantic markets: How to ensure there are trade benefits for all?

BEUC NEWS 03.03.2017

The EU-US trade agreement – known as TTIP – is currently in the ‘freezer’. Years of negotiations have been marked by a rise in public mistrust on free trade. A call to action for all involved actors to reassess free trade deals. At BEUC, we think it’s necessary to rethink the way trade agreements are designed.

 

This is why American and European consumer groups meet in Washington D.C. on March 21, to set a new strategy for consumers in transatlantic markets. 

Why is this necessary? Because modern trade agreements deal with more than just ‘trade’ – they focus on differences in rules between countries. These agreements can therefore have repercussions for consumer protection. This is why consumer groups monitor trade policy and remind negotiators that consumer protection benefits society as a whole.

In our view, ‘trade’ agreements should stick to their original role: getting rid of protectionist tariffs that run against the consumer interest. Any rule-making that affects consumers’ daily lives ought to remain the autonomy of, respectively, EU and US policy-makers. This doesn’t – and shouldn’t – stop them from exchanging information on best practices, if it contributes to better decision-making on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Making progress in times of political change

In Washington, consumer groups are to develop an agenda for EU and US consumers in transatlantic markets. Attendees will review what the goals of trade agreements have been, and define what these should be from now on.

In times of political change, it’s vital policy-makers are reminded that any EU-US cooperation needs to safeguard consumer protection. The key areas of transatlantic concern are chemicals, big data, food (mis- & dis-)information, food safety, intellectual property, product safety and financial services.  

BEUC intends to use this debate to frame policy recommendations that the European institutions can use to create a more inclusive trade and consumer policy.

The event

The Washington meeting, titled “A consumer agenda for transatlantic markets: safeguarding protections and making progress in times of political change”, is organised by the Trans-Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD). A draft agenda is here.

TACD brings together EU and US consumer organisations to develop joint consumer policy recommendations that promote the consumer interest in EU and US policy-making.

From the European side, contributions will be made by BEUC, Consumentenbond, Forbrugerrådet Tænk, Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (vzbv) and Which?.