Leaked trade talk documents reveal threat to environment

3rd May 2016

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Karen Fisher

Protection of the environment and human health would be eriously undermined' if negotiations between the US and EU on a transatlantic trade deal continue on the current path, Greenpeace warned.

The campaign group has published leaked parts of the draft text of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), currently being negotiated between the US government and the European Commission.

TTIP aims to remove non-tariff obstacles to trade between the EU and US, focusing on harmonising rules and regulations between the two blocs. Talks on the agreement have been underway for two and a half years.

Campaigners have accused the negotiations of being shrouded in secrecy and last year the European Ombudsman published a report urging the commission to improve transparency.

Greenpeace said the leaked text represents more than two-thirds of the overall draft deal. Of the 16 chapters it has obtained, 13 are ‘consolidated’ and show the negotiating positions of both blocs. They reveal areas of agreement and also where compromise may be necessary.

The campaign group has access to chapters on chemicals, agriculture, government procurement, regulatory cooperation and technical barriers to trade, such as labelling. Chapters it does not have access to include those covering energy and raw materials, investment protection, legal and institutional issues, subsidies and sustainable development.

Greenpeace’s concerns include:

  • The chapter on regulation aims to reconcile EU and US regulations, irrespective of the issue at stake. It states that regulations that are stricter on one side than the other will be scrutinised and revised.
  • On agriculture, the EU wants the agreement to state that nothing will restrain the parties from taking action to achieve policy objectives, including public health, safety and environment. However, the US describes such measures as ‘trade distorting’ and is advocating lower standards.
  • Proposals to remove technical barriers to trade include allowing industry unprecedented access to the regulatory processes of each member state – for example, on the labelling of hazardous products.
  • Climate protection is not mentioned in the draft text seen by Greenpeace. The organisation believes the scope for mitigation measures could be limited by provisions in the chapters on regulatory cooperation or market access for industrial goods – for example, the proposals would rule out regulating the import of CO2-intensive fuels, such as oil from tar sands.
  • The precautionary principle is not mentioned in any of the draft text. The principle is enshrined in EU law and states that, where a policy or action might cause harm to the public or environment and there is no scientific consensus on the issue, the policy or action should not be pursued. However, the US is demanding a ‘risk-based approach’, which manages hazardous substances rather than avoids them.
  • Both parties are considering giving corporations more access and participation in decision-making. The documents show that corporations have been given significant opportunities to participate in the decision-making process, Greenpeace says. By contrast, civil society bodies have had little access to the negotiations. Campaign groups have been allowed to take part in consultations and stakeholder meetings conducted by the commission, but Greenpeace describes these as ‘little more than content-free formalities’.

Jorgo Riss, director of Greenpeace EU, said: ‘The effects of TTIP would be initially subtle but ultimately devastating. It would lead to European laws being judged on their consequences for trade and investment, disregarding environmental protection and public health concerns.’

The EU trade commission Cecilia Malmström stressed that the leaked documents merely reflect each side’s negotiating position and said there were many areas where the EU and US have different views. ‘In areas where we are too far apart in a negotiation, we simply will not agree,’ she wrote in a blog.

Malmström denied that industry had had greater access to EU negotiating positions than other stakeholders, adding that trade unions, consumer groups and health and environmental organisations are represented in the advisory group that regularly meets the commission’s negotiating team.

‘It begs to be said, again and again: no EU trade agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment. Trade agreements will not change our laws on GMOs, or how to produce safe beef, or how to protect the environment,’ she said, adding that regulations would only be changed to make them stronger, not weaker.

In response, Riss called Malmström disingenuous. ‘Malmström may well promise not to undermine environmental and consumer protection, but the evidence tells a different story. In several areas the US proposes to lower EU standards, but there are no EU proposals in the leaked consolidated documents to counter this,’ he said.

The leaked documents can be seen here.


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