A debate on TTIP on Thursday June 25 clearly shows is that it still is a contested issue. While its supporters mainly focus on the benefits for companies that want easy market-access for their products, the opponents fear that TTIP will be a danger to democracy and put pressure on public health standards.
On Thursday June 25, TNI organised a debate about TTIP and it’s effect on health, together with Wemos, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, and SOMO in Utrecht.
Remco van de Pas of the Institute for Tropical Medicine started by introducing the dilemmas and difficulties of TTIP. The big question is whether TTIP is good for public health or not. According to Van der Pas there are certain risks of TTIP for public health: “What could happen is that the policy space for public health would diminish by rules on harmonization. It could be that member states would lose the means to organize public health in a sufficient manner – for example by levying taxes on tobacco or alcohol, forbidding commercials for unhealthy goods or subsidizing sports and healthy products in schools – because this would intervene with trade agreements.”
Dutch liberal parliamentarian Fred Teeven (VVD) said he sees mainly benefits for the health sector with TTIP. By equalizing standards it would become simpler for pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies to sell their products on the global market. He used the example of lipstick: It will become possible to sell lipstick in the US that according to the Food and Drug Administration is carcinogenic, but has already been approved by the European Medicines Agency.
Greens Euro parliamentarian Bas Eickhout was more skeptical. The standards on basis of which it is decided whether products have market access or not have been realized in a democratic way. TTIP is an assault on these democratic procedures. By introducing TTIP the EU will lose control over which pharmaceuticals we want in the European Union and on the basis of what standard. “TTIP as it is designed right now will undermine democracy and create a corpocracy.”
The pharmaceutical industry was represented by AstraZeneca spokesperson Ad Antonisse. According to Antonisse TTIP procedures for getting access to the markets in the EU and the US will be easier and more transparant than they currently are. “With TTIP on both sides of the Atlantic, standards for the approval of medicines will be the same and doing research twice won't be necessary anymore.” Therefore medicines can get access to the market quicker. This would benefit patients who depend on this medication.
Erik Wesselius of Corporate Europe Observatory pointed out that TTIP was designed mainly to the benefit of big corporations and has no attention for the social and environmental aspects of trade. Moreover, there is an enormous amount of corporate power involved in the creation of TTIP. The amount of contact with lobbyists for corporations far outweighs the contact with civil society organisations.
What the debate clearly shows is that TTIP still is a contested issue. While its supporters mainly focus on the benefits for companies that want easy market-access for their products, the opponents fear that TTIP will be a danger to democracy and put pressure on public health standards.
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