TTIP ‘challenged’ by environmental critics, EU says

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EXCLUSIVE / Plans for a sweeping EU-US free trade deal known as TTIP risk being blown off course by civil society fears about the damage it could wreak on environmental and social protections, according to a leaked EU document seen by EurActiv.

The preparation paper for an EU-US Summit on 26 March, which is marked as ‘restricted’, identifies the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Protocol (TTIP) as a “clear vector for jobs and growth for both the EU and US”.

But it warns that “stakes are high” in the race to thrash out a deal, with “challenges on both sides of the Atlantic that need to be managed.”

“For instance, the increasing interest of civil society in TTIP, transparency issues and the supposed risks for environmental and social standards have the potential to affect the political dynamics of the negotiation,” the document says. It may be received as a shot across the European Parliament’s boughs.

A little-noticed environment committee report for the parliament last October found four areas which could be badly affected by the regulatory harmonisation needed for a TTIP deal: GMO’s, chemicals, poultry pathogen reduction treatments, and aviation greenhouse gas emissions. 

Without precise language – notably absent from a planned EU-Canada free trade deal – investor-state disputes mechanisms covering these areas “could hamper the EU and member states in efforts to establish regulations seeking to protect their citizens or the environment,” the report said.

It called for lawmakers to closely monitor TTIP texts, increase public awareness about their potential dangers, and “recognize that the strongest action that the European parliament could take to impact TTIP would be not to give its consent to the negotiated agreement.”

‘A mushrooming of doubts’

To counter this kind of opposition, a Commission TTIP communications strategy leaked to the Danish journal ‘Notat’ last November called for a new and “radically different” PR approach that could “reduce fears and avoid a mushrooming of doubts.”

Top of the paper’s ‘key issues to watch’ was “anxiety around the potential impact on the European social model and approach to regulation” of a TTIP agreement.

Previous leaked documents obtained by EurActiv show that the text for any trade deal between the EU and US would include provisions for investors to sue states if their ‘legitimate expectations’ of profit were damaged by subsequent environmental or social legislation.

In the past, such measures have allowed one company to take out a $250 million lawsuit against Quebec for banning hydraulic fracturing (or ‘fracking’) under the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

Similarly, Mexico was ordered to pay Tecmed $5.5 million for relicensing a waste treatment plant out of environmental concerns, because it had not consistently acted in a manner “free from ambiguity and totally transparently.”

Public procurement

The proposed TTIP agreement would also remove non-tariff barriers, enshrine ‘Most Favoured Nation’ treatment for both trade blocs, and prise open public procurement markets.

“The Agreement will aim at enhanced mutual access to public procurement markets at all administrative levels (national, regional, local), and in the fields of public utilities […] ensuring treatment no less favourable than that accorded to locally established suppliers,” according to a separate leaked ‘nature and scope’ document seen by EurActiv. 

All procurement bodies, sectors – particularly public constructions – thresholds and service contracts would be covered, says the paper, which is marked ‘trade-sensitive’.

US companies might thus have legal recourse under ‘fair and equitable treatment’ clauses, also proposed in the text, if a European country decided to, for example, extend state-backed healthcare provisions. Worries about this have already been aired in the UK.

Following a stock-taking meeting with the US trade representative Michael Froman, on 18 February, the EU's trade commissioner Karel de Gucht called for more ambition on public procurement and said that TTIP's regulatory aspects would be "the toughest nut to crack".

He also called for "a fear-based debate" to be avoided, saying the European Parliament would not tolerate a deal that compromised social standards.

The summit preparations document, which is dated 5 February, also lists the US legislature and ongoing fallout from the NSA surveillance row as “difficult obstacles” to an EU-US trade deal.

Foreign policy cooperation

“The summit will be an important moment to secure President Obama’s continued personal commitment to the TTIP,” it says. The meeting’s agenda will also include the economy, efforts to cool the NSA spy row, and foreign policy cooperation.

It notes “significantly strengthened foreign policy cooperation” as a countervailing trend to the foreseen snags, citing Ukraine, Iran, Syria, Serbia-Kosovo and the increased development of common security and anti-terrorism missions in the Horn of Africa, Sahel, Libya and Central African Republic.

In the Middle East, where the EU has issued new guidelines on the labelling of produce from Israeli settlements, the text says that “the EU has delivered active backing to US-led efforts… with major incentives for a sustainable peace under preparation.”

Brussels has been a strong supporter of ongoing attempts by the US secretary of state John Kerry to agree a framework plan between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The final item on the conference diary is advancing “increased ambition” to achieve a robust global agreement at the Paris climate change conference in 2015.

Timeline: 
  • 26 March: EU-US Summit
  • End of 2014: Negotiators hope to agree a TTIP text 
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Comments

Mike Parr's picture

There is something puzzling in all this. Civil society in Europe has serious doubts that TTIP could deliver any benefits to citizens. In contrast supporters of TTIP only ever talk in generalities - not specifics. TTIP can be characterised as "investor protection" legislation & thus a variation on the familiar "privatise profits/socialise losses" shtick which assorted banksters and similar criminals so cleverly foisted on society.

The puzzlement comes from the following & I take two institutional examples. BussinessEurope & its members: listen to what individual members say and then to the people within the org & what they say (and which they claim is on behalf of their members). It is difficult to reconcile the two in areas such as energy, environment, renewables. Speculation in Bruxelles is that the BussEurope org has been captured (in the ideological sense) - the question is - by who?.

Moving to the EC, who in the EC is responsible for driving the TTIP? The EC has many faults (but no more or less than other large orgs). Its ambitions and actions in areas such as climate change, energy and consumer rights is often compromised by lobbying but it usually tries to do "the right thing". Given the TTIP is so obviously "the wrong thing" one wonders who in the EC is driving this. Like the BussEurope org, one senses ideological capture within some parts of the EC.

Euractiv could perform a public service by identifying who (heads of units, directors etc) are the driving forces behind TTIP. I'm tired of hearing the usual flim flam from talking heads such as Karel de Gucht (soon to be a yesterday's man). It would be nice to hear what Director generals or directors or heads of unit have to say. Let's hear them justifying TTIP - why, exactly, they think it is such a great idea. Let's see some of their presentations on the subject.

Concluding: I have an interesting document from CEN/CENELEC on TTIP and standards. They are somewhat "unhappy" with how things are done in the USA (I have my own beef with the closed nature of standards making in Europe - but that is another story). Their concern is that product compliance in the USA is driven by a monopoly org called "Underwriters Laboratory" (not named by CEN/CENELEC but we know who they are talking about). It is almost impossible to sell anything in the USA without a UL certificate - & these are expensive. This contrasts with Europe where standards compliance is often achieved through self-certification. Readers may say this is a detail - but there are many such "details" like this with respect to TTIP & I have no doubt that the UL monopolists are licking the chops at the prospect of being able to impose themselves on Europe.

De Gucht and his minions doubtless hope that these problems would just "go away". Come May 2014: only vote for an MEP that commits in writing to complete and total rejection of TTIP - regardless.

John's picture

TTIP is another trade treaty that will benefit corporate interests. European and American citizens will be taken to the cleaners if this thing is agreed upon.

Marcel's picture

If you look at this article, there is a bit on the left side, called 'background' which makes the following statement about the TTIP: 'it is claimed that average European households would gain an extra €545 annually' and also this statement 'Europe economy would be boosted by around 0.5% of GDP'.

What we are dealing with is clearly a loaded debate. Both these claims are beyond laughable and are absolutely absurd and totally false. The ones who make the claims of course know this, but these claims are inserted to get politicians to vote for it.

Just check the last 20 years of 'free trade' deals. Time and time again we see jobs disappearing from western countries, we see the 'race to the bottom' accelerating, we see environmental protecion/consumer protection/workers rights under fire from corporate interests. Beginning with NAFTA all these free trade deals have one thing in common, they are good for the rich, and bad for everyone else.

And also, why do corporate CEOs have permanent access to a draft treaty where elected (national) parliament
members do not?

Through the TTIP the US seeks to export its draconian patent/copyright legislation across Europe. This is another thing that must be avoided at all costs.

In short, TTIP is bad news in all respects, not the least of which is the shadowy arbitrage courts it proposes to set up.

Kim Wittenburg Kolbe's picture

The huge advantages of the trading agreement rests on the theiss, that public consumption wil rise?
How, unemployment is rising, the wages are decreasing, economic restrictions in still more countris are applied, there is therefore no indication, that production will increase.
Only motive could be, that the one outsmarts the other!
But where is the consumer in all this?
This is all in the interest of trade and capital.

David Persson's picture

And challenged for good reasons... Since it is unclear what EU and the US will be able to achieve during these years that the treaty will hinder competition from China... The strategy and demands on companies for preparing for a future sustainable (financially and environmentally) development is lacking...

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