Greenpeace claims TTIP leaks show trade deal a threat to EU

‘TTIP is about a huge transfer of power from people to big business,’ says Greenpeace

People reading copies of the Greenpeace-leaked TTIP negotiations inside a public reading room in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Monday. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

People reading copies of the Greenpeace-leaked TTIP negotiations inside a public reading room in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Monday. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

 

The European Commission has insisted it will not agree to any transatlantic trade deal that undermines EU environmental and social standards, after Greenpeace leaked negotiation documents which it said proved just such a deal is imminent.

The environmental lobby group published 248 pages of classified negotiation documents relating to the world’s largest global trade deal, the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

While the US and EU are aiming for the negotiations – if not ratification – to be completed before the end of President Barack Obama’s term, the leaks are likely to reinvigorate opponents of the deal.

Among the negotiating positions revealed in the documents, from an April round of talks, the US is offering to cut customs fees on European cars to the US market if the EU agrees to import more American agricultural produce.

Greenpeace and other campaigners are concerned the US will put pressure on the EU to change its current “precautionary principle”, in particular regarding genetically modified crops. At present, they are only allowed in Europe if the manufacturer can prove they are not dangerous for humans and the environment. But the US, which allows about 170 genetically modified plants, is reportedly interested in a shift to the so-called “risk principle”, whereby such crops are permissible until a danger is established.

The US is also continuing its push for private commercial arbitration courts, open to firms to sue governments under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules if they fear a threat to their property.

Amid growing resistance, particularly in Germany’s ruling grand coalition, leading officials in Europe have insisted such courts are no longer part of negotiations. The papers suggest otherwise, though the court proceedings could be streamed online and would no longer meet behind doors.

But US officials are reportedly still opposed to allowing appeals and the use of public judges, as demanded by Europe.

“This treaty threatens to have far-reaching implications for the environment and the lives of more than 800 million citizens in the EU and US,” said Greenpeace as it presented the documents in Berlin. “TTIP is about a huge transfer of power from people to big business.”

EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström said she was “not in the business” of lowering standards and the leaked papers “reflect each side’s negotiating position, nothing else”.

Different views

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are areas where the EU and the US have different views,” she wrote in a blog.

“But it begs to be said, again and again, that no EU trade agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment.” Last week, Mr Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel pushed for talks to conclude, citing a massive economic boost on both sides, but admitted that “substantial work” remained on thorny issues, in particular agriculture.

Greenpeace said it was alarmed the draft text from April made no mention of long-term goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, warning that TTIP “would put corporations at the centre of policymaking, to the detriment of environment and public health”.