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 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.
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.”