The controversial trade deal being negotiated between the EU and the US could spell disaster for European farming, finds a new report from Friends of the Earth Europe.
The report ‘Trading away EU farmers’ launched today in 14 EU countries, reviews modelling studies carried out in the EU and US on the impacts of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The report concludes that TTIP will massively increase imports from the US, with far fewer benefits for EU producers. Studies foresee a decline of up to 0.8% for EU agriculture’s contribution to gross domestic product, while US agriculture's contribution will increase by 1.9% - a net trade benefit to US interests of over 4 billion Euro.
This is predicted to result in many farmers across the EU facing stronger competition and lower prices, threatening farm businesses across Europe, as well as having negative impacts on rural areas and on consumer interests. The US Department of Agriculture is predicting falls in the price paid to European farmers in every food category.
Elena Portelli from Friends of the Earth Malta said ‘’ The local farming sector consists of circa 19,000 farmers, only around 1,300 of whom are full time. This small figure coupled with a small holding size - circa 88.4% of farm holdings are smaller than 2 hectares makes the Maltese farming sector even more vulnerable than most to competition from imported products.’’
The report says that corporate lobby groups on both sides of the Atlantic are pushing for greater access to each others’ agricultural markets, with the US in particular targeting Europe’s generally higher safety and animal welfare standards. However, even if EU standards are maintained, increased imports from the US will still flood European markets, ensuring huge export opportunities and profits for food corporations and US factory farms at the expense of European farmers.
Ms Portelli continued “The main winners from the TTIP deal will be corporate food giants and US factory farms who already have bigger economies of scale and lower production costs. Any removal of EU restrictions will mean a huge increase in imports and could be the final nail in the coffin for some EU farming sectors. While the imports of US products are at present negligible in Malta, TTIP could completely change US product access to our market.”
In terms of gains for EU agriculture, the report says these will be restricted to just a few sectors, such as cheese, but even these are dependent on the US giving way on ‘non-tariff measures’ that it uses to restrict trade. The report highlights that consumer and environmental protection may suffer too, because both US government and producer organisations are openly calling for the EU to weaken protection in areas such as the approval of GM foods, pesticide safety rules and the bans on hormones and pathogen washes in meat production.
Friends of the Earth Malta calls on the Maltese government to keep to its promise to conduct and publish impact assessments on Maltese market sectors. Special interest should be given to highly vulnerable sectors such as Maltese agriculture. A recent study by the World Trade industry puts Malta as the only country to suffer economic losses due to TTIP, suffering -0.3% income and -0.7% investments.