International trade

TTIP talks roll on

2:31 min

The tenth round of negotiations on the trans-Atlantic trade agreement, TTIP is underway, and two of the most controversial subjects of the negotiations between the EU and the US surround chemicals and hormone-disrupting substances, and many fear the trade agreement may weaken legislation. Edgar Mannheimer has more.

"There are enormous COSTs related to hormone-disruptive substances and there is a big need for fast action and regulation in regards to them. There are fears that a TTIP-agreement may mean that such regulation will be postponed," says Johan Sandahl, Chairman of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC).

Sweden actively strives for a "poison-free living", and wants tougher legislation against chemicals that can be hormone-disruptive. Such chemicals can, according to the UN and the WHO cause diseases like breast cancer, heart failure, and obesity. The substances are found in clothes, plastic containers, and normal shopping receipts.

Sweden has even moved to sue the EU-commission for its postponing of legislation on such chemicals.

However, Magnus Huss, head of the Innovation and Chemical Industries in Sweden (IKEM) claims that the TTIP negotiations won't affect legislation on chemicals at all.

"It's a myth that the chemical industry wouldn't want to establish criteria for this. The truth is that it's quite difficult and we're working as fast as we can. I don't think the treaty will affect this at all, the opposite is true," says Huss.

At the same time, the British newspaper The Guardian revealed that the EU purposefully postponed legislation surrounding 31 hormone-disturbing substances by request from the American Chamber of Commerce in connection with TTIP.

US and EU legislation on chemicals are so different that many believe it will be difficult to combine them. In the EU, a chemical company must prove its products are not dangerous before putting them on the market, while in the US, authorities must prove that a chemical is dangerous before it is taken off the market.

"One example of TTIP's significance is the discussions about the criteria for hormone-disturbing substances. There one can predict similar cases in the future when other areas of trade are to be regulated where TTIP could have significance. We don't currently know on what level one will co-operate but TTIP will certainly affect future development of regulations," says Sten-Åke Svensson at the Swedish Chemicals Agency.

It'll take several years before the EU and the US have finished negotiations, and disagreements between environmental and chemical lobbyists both for and against TTIP will continue debating it intensely. For now, the negotiations drag on.