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Could the TTIP deal undo development gains?

By Barbara Crowther, Director of policy and public affairs at Fairtrade Foundation

United Nations (UN) secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has clearly stated his ambition for the sustainable development goals to be the most inclusive global development process ever, saying: “Development, after all, is about people. Their aspirations and ambitions must shape our policies and goals. I am determined to make sure that what a farmer says in Tanzania (...) will be heard at UN headquarters.”

With goals to promote sustainable agriculture, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and decent work for all, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could pave the way for more lives to be changed. But a business-as-usual approach to trade liberalisation is currently threatening to push an estimated 200,000 small-scale sugarcane growers from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific further into poverty.

A European Union (EU) quota that caps sugar beet production and allows poor farmers to compete is set to end in 2017. Not only do EU farmers receive subsidies that disadvantage farmers from developing countries but a study by the Overseas Development Institute found that if the abolition of the sugar beet cap is accompanied by a global drop in sugar prices, up to 6.4 million people could be pushed into poverty by 2020.

How can we hope to attain ambitious and inclusiveSDGs while negotiations such as the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are taking place behind closed doors and are feared to be anything but sustainable and pro-development?


With TTIP not only has there been no consultation with farmers, even elected members of the European Parliament only won sight of negotiating texts after huge pressure, and then only in a special ‘reading room’. Contrary to assurances that partnership’s effect on developing countries would be minimal, other assessments suggest potentially severe impact. One study of the potential impact on 43 low- income countries found that they would all face significant losses. As the top exporters to the EU and US, particularly in textiles, clothing, footwear, fish products and bananas, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Ghana are looking particularly vulnerable, whilst a 6.4% loss of GDP was forecast for Côte d’Ivoire. And yet the juggernaut of these negotiations rolls on, with no sustainability assessment.

But right at the bottom of our SDGs shopping list, hidden in its deepest recesses, is the one thing we must absolutely not forget to put in our basket. Target 17.14 simply call us to “enhance policy coherence for development”. That’s it. Nothing more. But of all the targets, right now it’s looking like the one that will be most complex, most controversial and yet most critical to pull off. And pull it off we must, because if we don’t we will continue to drive development policy on the left hand, only to see the right hand of trade reform continue to rip the benefits away again.

In March 2015, the Fairtrade Foundation started to campaign to raise awareness amongst politicians of the impact of European Common Agricultural Policy reform on small holder sugar cane farmers, who rely on exporting sugar to Europe, obtaining positive support (read more).

Recently the European Citizens’ Initiative ‘Stop TTIP’ has reached a new record number of signatures: with 2 million signatures, this is the largest European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) since the introduction of the instrument in 2012. Furthermore The European Parliament (EP) has postponed the debate and the votes on TTIP that were supposed to take place on 10th of June because of the overwhelming number of amendments received from MEPs.

If you want to know more about this topic read our previous newsletter article ‘Why TTIP is not just an EU–US problem – And what you can do about it’ by Cornelia Reetz (Stop TTIP).

This article was originally published by The Guardian. 


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