That was the view of Hilary Ross, partner and head of retail, food and hospitality at law firm DWF.
Pointless EU legislation was placing an unacceptable burden on business and TTIP could force a long-overdue review, she told a TTIP seminar at DWF’s London office last month.
“I do worry there’s a whole industry of EU regulation that has taken on a life of its own that we could be reviewing,” Ross told our sister title Food Manufacture. “If we are looking at how we reduce barriers to trade with America, why don't we look at how we reduce barriers to trade internally within the EU?”
‘Does away with this tinkering’
A trade deal agreed between the EU and US, as part of the current TTIP talks, could become a roadmap for simplified EU legislation. “Provided the agreement maintains safety and consumer protection, it does away with this tinkering with legislation simply for the sake of it,” said Ross.
A prime example was the Food Information for Consumers (FIC) Regulation, which was enacted in December last year. “If you look at FIC, the cost of that, compared with the benefits, is highly disproportionate. It was far too expensive and brought very little benefit to the consumer,” said Ross.
“What we are seeing now is bureaucrats almost going back to review and change things for the sake of it, compared with driving real benefits. The cost of labelling, estimated at £200M, could have been passed on to the consumer or spent on innovation or exports.”
The kick-start needed
EU laws lambasted
“What we are seeing now is bureaucrats almost going back to review and change things for the sake of it, compared with driving real benefits. The cost of [FIC] labelling, estimated at £200M, could have been passed on to the consumer or spent on innovation or exports.”
Hilary Ross, DWF
TTIP trade talks could provide the kick-start needed to simplify a raft of EU legislation affecting the food industry. After hearing a government source outline the potential benefits of a trade deal at the seminar, Ross said: “Given the comments we have had heard about the political will to drive TTIP forward, from the regulatory perspective, it indicates to me there is an understanding of the issues that technical barriers create, so maybe it is more realistic than one would have originally thought.”
Those benefits would be in addition to the exports boost arising from improved access to the US market of more than 300M new consumers.
But change would not come swiftly, she acknowledged, estimating it could take between five and 10 years before TTIP had a knock on benefit in simplifying EU legislation. It would be four years at the earliest before the benefits of any trade deal began to be felt in the UK, according to the government source.
Not everyone is convinced by TTIP. Friends of the Earth has described it as “a toxic issue” that will put downward pressure on EU food safety, health and environmental standards.
Meanwhile, last month business secretary Vince Cable warned secrecy surrounding the trade talks was making consumer suspicious that politicians and negotiators had something to hide.