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Worry over EU/US deal talks weakening cosmetic protections

By Michelle Yeomans+

18-Dec-2013

As U.S. and EU leaders gather once again for trade deal negotiations this week, consumer groups are wary the talks could pose economic and environmental risks for the industry.

For months now representatives and regulatory experts have been holding talks on sectors, including cosmetics, in a bid to enhance regulatory coherence and compatibility through a ‘Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership’.

However; US consumer advocacy group ‘Public Citizen’ is wary, and has publicly stated that the talks could reduce protections in existing laws to the “lowest common denominator” on either side of the Atlantic.

Furthermore, group president Robert Weissman reckons they will undermine U.S. banking and insurance regulations, whilst leaving Europeans to grapple with lower standards for privacy and chemical labeling.

This is not a traditional trade agreement focused on tariffs,” he claimed.

It is primarily a regulatory agreement – or anti-regulatory agreement – designed to eliminate regulatory differences that might impede trade,” he added.

Specifics of the deal

The consumer group goes on to state its main concern is that the agreement in large part, is being negotiated in secret.

But the text is not made public. We can't see it. Congress can't see it. European Parliaments can’t see it. It’s only businesses that are part of the trade advisory committees and the negotiators themselves. The public needs to be part of this process," said Susan Grant, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America.

Grant believes the trade pact could also send waves of data on European citizens to U.S. companies hoping to “mine” that information to create profiles that could be used to sell everything from clothing to cosmetics.

EU/US officials are confident on the outcome.. 

Meanwhile; European officials are stating they are hopeful the deal will include financial regulation and markets-related activity, since the EU and US account for 80% of global financial transactions.

At the heart of the European regulation system is the "Precautionary Principle," which is enshrined in the EU treaty and gives its' regulators more license than their counterparts in the U.S. to restrict or ban substances that are believed to be harmful.

Both sides are hoping that these talks will help to align their domestic standards in this instance, and that they will be able to set the benchmark for developing global rules – beneficial for both EU and US exporters, as well as for the multilateral trading system.

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