Climate protection, jobs, food safety and online privacy rights will be whittled away under the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), an explosive tranche of leaked documents reveal.
The text of the secretive EU-US trade negotiations indicate the watershed deal could tear asunder long-held environmental and consumer protections many Europeans hold dear.
Greenpeace Netherlands published the classified documents on Monday to dismantle a veil of secrecy over the trade agreement and lay bare its implications for climate protection, human health, workers’ rights, internet privacy rights and the very social fabric of Europe itself.
The NGO, which has a long history of environmental campaign work and research, obtained the documents from an unknown source.
Green Peace Netherlands worked with a number of high-profile media outlets on the data, including Hamburg-based TV station NDR, Cologne-headquartered public broadcasting group WDR and renowned Munich-based newspaper Süddeutscher Zeitung.
Death knell for TTIP?
The leak shines a light directly on the negotiation positions of the EU and the US, and gives the roughly 1 billion citizens in the EU and US the opportunity to have an informed debate on TTIP. TTIP’s opponents from Bristol to Brussels have branded the disclosures the trade agreement’s death knell.
Executive Director of UK social justice campaign War on Want John Hilary said the leak shows how TTIP poses a direct threat to jobs, food safety and the democratic foundations of Europe.
“It is even worse than we feared,” Hilary said. “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 forever.
“It is simply unacceptable that a group of unelected officials should be allowed to contemplate such a thing without any public scrutiny.”
Hilary suggested the leak signals TTIP’s demise.
“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,” he said.
“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 this far.”
Following in-depth analysis of the leaked documents, Greenpeace International and other anti-TTIP groups highlighted a number of key criticisms.
1. Profit over humanity, animal & plant life
The leaked negotiating texts indicate that TTIP, in its current form, will likely see progressive EU policies that were put in place to protect the planet scrapped. Absent from the 248-page leak is a single reference to what’s known as the General Exceptions rule.
This 70-year-old regulation, enshrined in the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), ensures that cross-border trade deals are regulated in a manner that protects human, animal and plant life – while preventing over-consumption of valuable natural resources.
2. Eroded climate protections
Also absent from the vast collection of negotiation texts is a mention of what many environmental commentators dub the most pressing issue of our time: climate protection.
Greenpeace Netherlands notes that key chapters in the leaked negotiation texts, namely “Market Access for Industrial Goods” and “Regulatory Cooperation,” outline proposals for limiting the impact and scope of vital measures put in place to tackle climate change.
One particularly troubling concern flagged by the NGO is the fact that EU regulation on importing CO2-heavy fuels like Tar Sands and oil would evaporate under these proposals.
Such a policy shift undercuts one of the key environmental protection strategies laid out under the Paris Climate Agreement: to limit further temperature increases to less than 1.5 degrees. An overwhelming majority of climate scientists across the globe – climate sceptics excluded – argue anything less will entrench the climate crisis, endangering billions worldwide.
3. Gateway for hazardous chemicals & GM food
The precautionary principle, which is laid out in Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, is also absent from the vast collection of negotiation texts. The measure aims to build a better framework of environmental protections via risk analysis and policy intervention.
In the case of products that could endanger human, plant or animal life – or could cause environmental degradation – it can be used as a vital tool to withdraw hazardous commodities from the market.
It is also used to strip suspect produce from market circulation in cases where aggregate scientific research does not offer a comprehensive picture of potential risks.
The leaked negotiation texts also reveal that TTIP will open European floodgates to US-produced genetically modified (GM) food and other products currently prohibited in the EU on environmental and public health grounds. Campaigners warn this would signal the abandonment of vital European regulatory standards.
4. Bias toward big business
While corporations have been afforded a glowing opportunity to have their say on TTIP, civil society has had virtually no access to the secretive negotiations. Embedded in the 248-page collection of leaked documents is a clear bias towards big business.
While civil society actors have been largely locked out of talks, the leaked papers reveal the iron-cast influence corporate actors have wrought over negotiations.
The European Commission (EC) has been anything but transparent about the extent of this corporate influence. The body’s most recent report on TTIP only mentions industry involvement in the talks once, while the leaked documents published on Monday show that industry input has been dutifully noted and collected throughout the negotiation process. The leaked texts also regularly reference a need for further consultation with corporate actors.
5. ISDS mechanism: a done deal?
Analysis of the leaked documents show that the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause central to TTIP is a high priority for Washington. The court mechanism would allow corporations to sue governments for damaging profits. Leaked negotiation texts, published on Monday, show the US has shot down proposed alternatives to this measure tabled by the EU.
Critics warn EC negotiators appear prepared to barter away EU states’ economic sovereignty for a quick buck born of US corporate contracts.
Faiza Oulahsen, a lead campaigner for Greenpeace Netherlands, said civil society across Europe should be concerned about what the leaked documents uncover.
“Whether you care about environmental issues, animal welfare, labor rights or internet privacy, you should be concerned about what is in these leaked documents,” she said.
“They underline the strong objections civil society and millions of people around the world have voiced: TTIP is about a huge transfer of democratic power from people to big business. We call on all elected representative and other concerned parties to read these documents and engage in the debate.”
The TTIP negotiation texts represent 13 of the 17 chapters that have been consolidated so far by the EC.
They had previously been shrouded in secrecy, viewable only by elected members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and other key Eurocrats. Those privy to the secretive texts were confined to reading them in a security-proofed chamber, in the absence of expert consultants. They were also banned from discussing their content with others.