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Egypt forms committee to investigate controversial EU-US trade deal

Egypt will form an official committee to investigate the possible impacts on Egypt of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

Egypt is not a party to the TTIP, which will reduce regulatory barriers for business deals between the United States and the European Union. However, both the European Union and United States are key trading partners for Egypt.

According to a prime ministerial decree published in Tuesday’s official gazette, the committee will include the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, Finance, Investment, Electricity and Agriculture.

The TTIP has been met with protest on both sides of the Atlantic.

Like many international trade agreements, the TTIP is being negotiated in secret. This has led to complaints that the governments involved are making major policy decisions in an undemocratic fashion.

Opponents of the deal also fear it will push legislation down to a lowest-common denominator between the United States and the European Union, weakening legislation in areas like food safety, banking, privacy and labor rights.

Of particular controversy are provisions in the TTIP that would allow foreign investors to sue governments in supra-national courts if they feel government actions are unfairly impacting their investments.

These international dispute settlements courts are already a feature of most of the 100 bilateral trade deals Egypt is part of.

In fact, one of the examples frequently cited as a cautionary tale by anti-TTIP activists comes from Egypt.

In June 2012, French company Veolia Propreté sued Egypt at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes. One of the Veolia’s claims was that Egypt’s decision to introduce a national minimum wage harmed Veolia’s investments and amounted to a breach of Egypt’s commitments under a trade deal with France. The lawsuit is still pending.

Anti-TTIP activists have pointed to this case as an example of how foreign investors can use international arbitration as a way to block governments from passing laws that serve public interest.

Proponents of the TTIP claim the agreement  will increase investment, help create jobs and lower prices for consumers.

According to the European Commission, the deal will bring US and EU regulations in line with each other “without lowering consumer health or environmental standards.”

The European Commission also says the TTIP will boost trade globally, with growth in the EU and US leading to increased demand for raw materials and finished products from other countries.

The newly formed Egyptian committee has been charged with reporting the results of its work by August 21, 2015.