It may be Christmas but the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) does not stop for festivities, and there have been a few developments - some good, some bad - here in Brussels.
Tom Vilsack, the US Secretary of Agriculture, addressed the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament to outline his position on TTIP. I have long held that agriculture should be removed from TTIP as the gulf between the two sides is simply too great, and previously tabled amendments in the committee demanding a full exemption. Sadly, there was insufficient support from my colleague for it to be adopted.
These comments did nothing to convince me that I was wrong. He stated that there are currently no negotiations to change or lower EU standards, but there is strong desire to ensure the EU and US regulations are recognised as equivalent. Frankly, this is highly problematic and will indirectly lower standards just as surely as reducing the standards directly.
Mutual recognition will undermine the rules via the back door. Not only will inferior be available to purchase but by allowing this produce, that is often cheaper, into the market we will undermine the viability of our own farming system.
But in happier news, the so-called "consolidated texts" are now available to all MEPs. Previously, I have visited to the TTIP reading room to look through some of the EU's classified documents but have not been able to view the draft compromises that have been made between the EU and the US. These "consolidated texts" were only available to 30 MEPs but with the ending of the restriction I will be visiting the room as soon as possible. Although, due to confidentiality agreements I will not be able to share with you exactly what I see, I'll give you my opinion on their content early next year.