Earth & Conservation

Controversial US-EU Trade Deal Explained

Standardizing food and drug laws seems harmless, but hundreds have protested against the TTIP. So what makes the TTIP so controversial?

In May, France soundly rejected the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in its current form, effectively putting the kibosh on the controversial trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union. For now.

Depending on your point of view, this is either good news or bad news -- although either way the development is not surprising. Jules Suzdaltsev explores the situation in today's Seeker Daily report.

The TTIP is a proposed agreement that would make trade across the U.S. and Europe easier and more efficient, primarily by reducing tariffs and standardizing regulations on goods. It's that second element of the deal that has European critics worried.

For example, the TTIP would force some European nations to alter their standards on food safety. The U.S. might have different regulations on a particular agricultural product, say. To do business under the new agreement, European Union nations would have amend their existing protocols -- and not just on food. The TTIP deal would impact pharmaceuticals, health products, clothing and other goods.

RELATED: Cloning Animals for Food to Be Banned in EU

Activists and many lawmakers argue that TTIP would also force Europe to sacrifice environmental and labor standards in order to conform to comparatively lower standards in the U.S. The contention is that powerful corporations in the U.S. essentially dictate trade policy, whereas Europe has a stronger tradition of consumer protection and government regulation.

These assessments were bolstered recently when Greenpeace Netherlands leaked 248 pages of classified documents regarding the TTIP. Sure enough, the documents acknowledged "irreconcilable" differences between U.S. and E.U. standards on environmental concerns, animal testing, drug safety and consumer protections.

France's latest salvo is just the latest development in the TTIP saga -- negotiations have been ongoing for more than three years now. During President Obama's visit to Germany in April, European critics of the TTIP deal staged a massive public protest of the trade agreement.

On the other hand, business leaders from both sides of the pond have strongly advocated for the TTIP deal, insisting that it will create literally millions of new jobs. Check out Jules' video for more details, or get the Seeker scoop on the similar Trans Pacific Partnership.

-- Glenn McDonald

Learn More:

Foreign Affairs: Getting to Yes on Transatlantic Trade

Pew Research Center: Is Europe on board for a new trade deal with the U.S.?

Business Europe: Why TTIP Matters to European Business

BBC: TTIP: Hundreds join protest over trade deal