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  May 10th, 2016 | Written by

Leaked TTIP Documents Met With Furor in Europe, Silence in U.S.

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  • EU trade commissioner Malmström, on TTIP: There are areas where the EU and the U.S. have different views.
  • Greenpeace Netherlands, on TTIP documents: “We should stop the negotiations and start the debate.”
  • Greenpeace: TTIP “opens the door for corporate takeover.”

After Greenpeace Netherlands released a package of 248 leaked documents relating to negotiation over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership last week, European environmental, health, and other groups were wringing their hands that the European Union was selling out to United States corporate interests in the negotiations.

Greenpeace leaders warned that environmental progress was being bartered away. The European Public Health Alliance warned against the removal of tariffs on tobacco and unhealthy and processed foods. Others warned the public over provisions affecting everything from animal welfare to labor rights, and internet privacy.

But EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström contends that much of the brouhaha is based on “misconceptions” and that the “consolidated texts” that were leaked “reflect each side’s negotiating position, nothing else.”

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

For Faiza Oulahsen, a Greenpeace Netherlands official, the leaked TTIP documents “reveal that civil society was right to be concerned about TTIP.” “We should stop the negotiations and start the debate”, she added.

From an environmental and consumer protection point of view Greepeace sees four areas of concern.

None of the documents reference the General Exceptions rule. This 70-year-old rule enshrined in the GATT agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO), allows nations to regulate trade “to protect human, animal and plant life or health” or for “the conservation of exhaustible natural resources.”

Greenpeace contends that climate protection will be harder under TTIP. The organization contends that trade is excluded from climate action. “These proposals would rule out regulating the import of CO2 intensive fuels such as oil from Tar Sands,” said Oulahsen.

It should be pointed out, however, that an International Maritime Organization has a global agreement in place that mandates energy efficiency standards for new and existing ships. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has ongoing negotiations aiming for a carbon-neutral aviation industry from 2020.

The precautionary principle, enshrined in the EU Treaty, which seeks to ban hazardous substances, is not mentioned in the chapter on Regulatory Cooperation. The U.S. risk-based approach that aims to manage hazardous substances rather than avoid them, finds its way into various chapters.

Finally, Greenpeace contents that TTIP “opens the door for corporate takeover.” “While the proposals threaten environmental and consumer protection, big business gets what it wants,” said Oulahsen. “Opportunities to participate in decision making are granted to corporations to intervene at the earliest stages of the decision making process, while civil society has had little access to the negotiations.”

The European Public Health Alliance’s concern is that the removal of tariffs on unhealthy products would boost chronic diseases in Europe, which in turn would offset the purported economic benefits of TTIP.

“While the main focus is on non-tariff barriers and the right to regulate, there are still significant tariffs on some health-harmful goods including tobacco and processed foods high in salt, sugar and fats,” said Zoltán Massay-Kosubek, an EPHA official. “We must not miss the point that removal of tariffs on health-harmful goods will also further accelerate the epidemic of chronic diseases in Europe, such as type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and cancers.”

Commissioner Cecilia Malmström pointed out that the consolidated texts that were released “are not the same thing as an outcome.” She also noted that the EU’s latest proposal “includes references to the precautionary principle, and points out our well-established public consultation procedures that are open to all stakeholders.”

A recent European Commission report details dozens of TTIP areas where the U.S. and the EU have yet to reach accord.

Malmström added that “EU industry does not have greater access to EU negotiating positions than other stakeholders. We take into account submissions by industry, but exactly the same applies to submissions by trade unions, consumer groups or health or environmental organizations.”

Interestingly, the U.S. Trade Representative and the Department of Commerce have been silent on the issue of the Greenpeace TTIP leak.