The precautionary principle in new EU free trade agreements

BDI clearly subscribes to the precautionary principle as a basis for regulation in the EU. It is enshrined in EU primary legislation and is also protected through international trade law. Furthermore, adequate protection of the precautionary principle is also incorporated in the EU’s free trade agreement with Canada (CETA) and in the EU’s proposals for the TTIP negotiations.

Reservations about the consequences of TTIP and CETA for European standards of protection are widespread in the public debate. However, an examination of the text of the CETA agreement and the EU’s negotiation proposals for TTIP shows that these reservations are unfounded.

In CETA, the “right to regulate”, i.e. the sovereignty of States to regulate on an autonomous basis, is explicitly confirmed on several occasions. In addition, regulatory cooperation is purely voluntary and can be suspended at any time. In the sustainability chapter, the right of contracting parties to take measures to protect employees and the environment is maintained even if a threat cannot conclusively be proven to exist on the basis of scientific evidence. In addition, the provisions of agreements, including free trade agreements, cannot overrule EU primary legislation.

Moreover, there is no contradiction between precautionary and evidence-based regulation: also in the United States and Canada, some regulation is precautionary, and decisions based on the European precautionary principle also require a scientific basis.