TTIP and cosmetics: a fact-check

Earlier this week, there was commotion on Twitter over a spreadsheet that was said to show that the most important aim of the American negotiators on the trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is to remove the European ban on testing cosmetic products on animals. I decided to look into this allegation: It concerns a screenshot of a table from a study that was done in 2009 ahead of the start of TTIP negotiations. The study was carried out by independent research firm Ecorys, on a contract from the European Commission. The aim of this study was to look at where and how European and American regulation differs in various sectors. Indeed, European rules are different to American rules when it concerns testing cosmetic products on animals. It is allowed in the US, it is not in the EU. But this table only shows where the differences between the two systems lie. And in the cosmetics sector, this is obviously the greatest difference between the two systems, which leads to a large amount of American products not being allowed to enter the European market. However, this table is just a listing of differences, it is not a concrete line-up of offensive targets for the American negotiators. The European Commission has repeatedly and publicly stated that European standards and rules on consumer protection will not be lowered and the European law will not be affected by TTIP (for example in this speech by Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht). In the position paper on cosmetics, which was made public, the European Commission shows that the European approach focuses on ways to make regulation more compatible, without implications for consumer protection or animal health. The Ecorys study also indicates that it is not plausible, possible nor even the aim to completely harmonise EU and US regulation (see p. xiii). Even if it was a priority for the American negotiators, the Commission has taken a strong stance against compromising on this topic. The European Parliament too demands that a trade agreement with the US has no negative impact on European standards and rules in the area of for example food safety, the environment and health. The fact that the Parliament has a deciding 'yes' or 'no' vote on the agreement at the end of the negotiations, gives us the power to make sure that the Commission adheres to this, and we will do so. The Americans know this too.