Commission lashes out at TTIP leaks as ‘storm in a teacup’

Cecilia Malmström [European Council]

The EU hit back at Greenpeace on Monday (2 May) for promoting “misconceptions” after it leaked documents about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) showing that the US is pressuring Brussels to roll back health and environmental standards.

In a blog post published this morning, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström insisted that  the TTIP paper published by Greenpeace reflected the negotiating positions, “nothing else”.

Consolidated texts and negotiating positions

“Contrary to what many seem to believe, so-called “consolidated texts” in a trade negotiation are not the same thing as an outcome,” she wrote in the blog.

“Many of today’s alarmist headlines are a storm in a teacup,” the Commissioner added.

EU and US negotiators met last week in New York, and the leaks reflect the situation prior to the start of the 13th round of talks.

“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,”  Malmström emphasised in the blog. “I am simply not in the business of lowering standards.”

The US and the EU have been trying to reach a deal on the world’s largest trade agreement since 2013.

TTIP is billed as a free-trade and investment deal for the 21st century, focused on harmonising regulations, lowering barriers on investment, opening access to government contracts, and addressing new areas like data trade and consumer protection.

But it is facing rising resistance and protectionist sentiment, as critics question the benefits of more open trade.

Greenpeace to publish 248 pages of TTIP leaks

Greenpeace said yesterday (1 May) it was in possession of leaked documents showing that a planned huge free trade deal between the United States and the European Union poses “major risks for climate, environment and consumer safety”.

Greenpeace said the papers reveal “major risks for climate, environment and consumer safety”.

“There are areas in the TTIP negotiations where we have come a long way, but in others we are simply not in agreement,” Malmström added.

“In areas where we are too far apart in a negotiation, we simply will not agree,” she said.

Still, green groups are alarmed by Washington’s push to replace the EU’s precautionary principle for potentially for potentially harmful products, which apply to GMOs and chemicals, for example.

The precautionary principle forces businesses to prove the absence of risk to the ecosystem and the food chain in manufacturing a product.

Speaking to the press today, Ignacio Garcia Bercero reiterated once more that ‘the precautionary principle´´ will not be weakened,  and neither is the right to regulate.

Responding to Malmström blog post, Greenpeace EU director Jorgo Riss said Commissioner Malmström is being ‘disingenuous.’

“The leaked consolidated documents make no mention of the EU’s precautionary principle, which provides a higher level of environmental and consumer protection. The mention of the precautionary principle that Malmström refers to is contained in an EU position paper that is not part of the leaked consolidated chapters,” stressed Riss.

No TTIP-light?

The publication of a large part of the TTIP negotiations hasn’t fundamentally moved the French position.  For months, Paris has said the trade agreement would be rejected if the conclusion were not in line with the country’s needs.

On Sunday (1 May), President François Hollande warned again that France would reject the pact if it endangered the country’s agricultural sector. France “will say no to any conclusion which would put our agriculture in difficulty”, he stressed.

Alongside agriculture, Hollande has mentioned environment and public procurement as sensitive topics being monitored very closely by France.

“We cannot sign a world agreement, a COP21, and have a commercial negotiation which would not respect the environmental principles,” he said.

The TTIP leaks highlight the gaps between international commitment on climate and the intended measures, industry-oriented.

“We observe that there is not the same will on American side as there is in European side,” regretted a French diplomat, speaking to EURACTIV France after the leaks were published.

The leaks would be an opportunity for TTIP negotiations to gain transparency in the future.

France’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl, has fought for more transparency in the TTIP  negotiations and asked, during a hearing in the French Senate (8 March),  that “all the data related to commercial negotiations should be open data”.

The option of a ‘TTIP-light’, which would focus only on consensual areas, isn’t a solution, according to France.

“A lite TTIP would be built on the back of France’s interest,” explained a diplomat in Paris. “So the ‘light’ TTIP proposal, it’s no.”

In response to the European Commission’s statements on the TTIP leaks and a blog post by EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström, Greenpeace EU director Jorgo Riss said: “The leaked documents also show the influence of industry lobbies on trade negotiators. The leak mentions several times that negotiators regularly consult with industry and are prepared to represent their positions.”

“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.”

“If Europeans are to believe Malmström’s promises, the best thing would be for the EU to publish the latest consolidated chapters with clear proof that the Commission is proposing higher environmental and consumer protection in TTIP.”

Reinhard Bütikofer, Co-Chair of the European Green Party, said: “The most recent TTIP leak provides ample proof of one core fact: The contradictions between the official positions of both sides are far greater than the European Commission has ever publicly acknowledged. To insist under these circumstances as the Commission does – that the negotiations should be finalized by the end of this year – either signals a belief in political miracles or an implicit willingness to cave in. The Commission has some explaining to do.

"The leaks show an ideological drive towards deregulation and law enforcement by private companies", said Joe McNamee, Executive Director of European Digital Rights (EDRi). "This would sweep away key European success stories such as open and competitive telecommunications markets and a legal framework based on transparency and the rule of law," he added.

Reacting to the publication of the leaked documents, John Hilary, Executive Director of War on Want, said:

"We have long warned that TTIP is a danger to democracy, food safety, jobs and public services. Now we see it is even worse than we feared. Today's leak shows the European Commission preparing to sell us down the river, doing deals behind closed doors that will change the face of European society for ever. It is simply unacceptable that a group of unelected officials should be allowed to contemplate such a thing without any public scrutiny."

"Today marks the end of TTIP. Total secrecy was the only way the European Commission could keep the European people from learning the truth about these appalling negotiations, and now the cat is out of the bag. We call on the governments of Europe to halt the TTIP talks immediately, disband the EU negotiating team and hold a public inquiry into how such a damaging set of negotiations was ever allowed to get that far,” Hilary continued.

Adrian Bebb, senior campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “These leaked documents confirm that the TTIP is a Trojan horse treaty that will wreak havoc on our democracy and the safeguards that protect people and the environment. Millions of European citizens have been absolutely right to be concerned about what was being traded away behind closed doors. It is now imperative that national governments take action to pull the plug on this toxic deal and demand that the negotiations are stopped.”

Negotiations between the United States and the European Union on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership began in July 2013.

The guidelines stated that the EU should seek to include provisions on investment protection and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the proposed agreement.

>>Read our Special report: TTIP and the Arbitration Clause

If the treaty is signed, it will affect almost 40% of world GDP. The transatlantic market is already the most important in the world.

The deal could save companies millions of euros and create thousands of new jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. The average European household could save €545 per year and European GDP could increase by nearly 0.5%.

>> Read: French government will not sign TTIP agreement in 2015

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