The set up by Federal Minister Sigmar Gabriel, which is made up of representatives from trade unions, churches, associations and non-governmental organisations, discussed the issue of consumer protection at its 3rd meeting today.
Federal Minister Gabriel made the following quite clear before the meeting: "The issue of consumer protection is a key priority for the German government in the negotiations with the United States. Trade facilitation must not be agreed upon to the detriment of consumers. Our protection levels in Germany and in Europe are not a subject for discussion."
During the meeting, which was chaired by State Secretary Stefan Kapferer, the Advisory Group discussed the critical recommendations made by the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv) on necessary corrections regarding the . Klaus Müller, Member of the Advisory Group and vzbv Executive Director, underlined that upholding the precautionary principle played a key role for European and US consumers. Doing without the mutual recognition of standards is important especially for sensitive products such as food. The vzbv believes that there should be no special investor protection. The planned close regulatory cooperation must not paralyse legislative action. If the better practice applied on both sides of the Atlantic due to TTIP, the planned free trade agreement would receive a more positive response. "Consumers expect more than an even greater product diversity at even lower prices," Mr. Müller said.
Ulrich Weigl, external expert and one of the lead negotiators of the European Commission, reported on the current status of negotiations in the particularly sensitive field of food safety. He stressed the fact that the European Commission will make sure in the negotiations that the protection levels in the EU and in Germany will be maintained. This is also part of the negotiating mandate given to the European Commission. In the field of food safety, the EU will stick to its rules for instance on the labelling of genetically modified food and the ban on the sale of hormone-treated meat.
State Secretary Kapferer emphasised: "The discussion in the Advisory Group was open and constructive. It is clear that the negotiations will not result in a satisfactory agreement unless we take account of the interests of consumers across a broad front. We must not forget that TTIP also offers opportunities for consumers. Consumers can benefit from less expensive products and a greater product diversity - and we do not need to lower our protection standards for this purpose. It should also be pointed out that in some fields there are stricter rules in the United States than in the EU, for example in the area of medical products."
Furthermore, the TTIP Advisory Group discussed the global dimension of the agreement, its significance and its perception in third states. Prof. Dr. Volker Perthes, Director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and Member of the Advisory Group, explained the view of the United States and of other important partners of the EU on the negotiations. It became clear that stable trade relations with the United States play a key role for the German economy particularly in times when markets are insecure due to various international crises.