The precautionary principle in TTIP: trade barrier or essential for consumer protection?

BEUC NEWS - 03.02.2016

At a recent event in Brussels, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström stated that “[the EU] will never give up the precautionary principle.” BEUC welcomes her comment, which provided the starting point for a debate on whether the precautionary principle is more a trade barrier or essential for consumer protection. The EU is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the US (TTIP) which could be the world’s largest, though it raises fundamental concerns on the future of European consumer protection standards.

BEUC’s Monique Goyens asked that proper safeguards are put in place to prevent the lowering of consumer protection standards. These are vital in the context of trade deals, as consumer protection is frequently billed as a ‘trade irritant’.

This discussion took place during a conference organised by the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), which is a forum of US and EU consumer organisations who develop and agree policy recommendations in the EU and the US that promote the consumer interest in policy making. During the conference, key consumer issues within TTIP were discussed, specifically chemicals, online rights, food and access to knowledge.

Stakeholders from both sides of the Atlantic contributed to the debate. From the US side, Julie Brill – Commissioner at the US Federal Trade Commission – provided an opening speech, while Michael Punke – Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Ambassador & Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization – answered the audience’s questions on the US’ take on the negotiations.

Did you miss the event? BEUC has composed a Storify, highlighting key tweets. For extended reading, you can retrace the proceedings via the hashtag #TACDFORUM.