Thanks to Greenpeace Netherlands’ leaking of some of the TTIP negotiation documents, European citizens now have the chance to compare the positions of the EU and the USA for the first time. To date, their elected representatives had only been able to see select documents in special reading rooms, without the aid of expert consultants and without being able to discuss the contents with anyone.
The documents constitute part of the TTIP draft text ‘edited up to April 2016,’ and hence do not include the results of the latest negotiations in New York. They consist of 248 pages in all, including 13 out of 17 consolidated chapters, and they show the European and US positions in parallel. Below we present a brief summary of the published documents and highlight points of particular concern.
Transparency of negotiations
First, arguably the most worrying, irritating aspect: namely that whereas civil society has had very limited access to negotiations, industry has had a privileged say in important decisions, and large corporations have received guarantees about the possibility of participating in decision-making processes right from the outset. The public report recently published by the EU only makes a brief reference to the contribution of enterprises, whereas the documents released by Greenpeace Netherlands repeatedly cite the need for further consultations with corporations and explicitly mention how their opinions were gathered.
Judging from the information leaked by Greenpeace, there appears to be no mention of long-standing environmental protections. The Greenpeace Italia site states that, ‘None of the chapters we have seen reference the General Exceptions rule. This nearly 70-year-old rule enshrined in GATT agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) allows nations to restrict trade “to protect human, animal and plant life or health“, or for “the conservation of exhaustible natural resources“. The omission of the rule suggests both sides are creating a regime that places profit ahead of human, animal and plant life and health.’
In the chapters released, the US risk management approach prevails, whereas the precautionary principle is not mentioned in the chapter on Regulatory Cooperation nor in any other of the obtained 12 chapters. What does this mean? For the USA, if a substance on the market presents a risk, that risk needs to be managed. ‘For the EU, that substance should be avoided and, when possible, replaced by a less hazardous alternative,’ explains the director of Greenpeace Europe Jorgo Riss, emphasizing that, ‘the precautionary principle is enshrined in the EU Treaties but, surprisingly isn’t cited even once in these 248 pages, as if the EU weren’t interested in defending it.’
In short, from the TTIP papers it transpires that the Americans are particularly aggressive and determined in their attempt to force the EU to renounce the ‘precautionary principle’ as a base for risk management in the normative approach to environment protection and health policies, especially with regard to the regulation of chemicals, pesticides, genetically modified organisms, cited in the documents as ‘modern agricultural technologies,’ never as GMOs.
Chemical residues and GMOs
The Codex Alimentarius, a set of rules and regulations introduced by FAO and the WHO, designed to protect the health of consumers and ensure the fairness of international trade exchanges, is strongly influenced by agrifood and chemical corporations, recommending standards often much lower than those of the EU. For example, according to the data reported by Greenpeace, 44% of decisions on pesticide residues have been less stringent than EU ones, with 40% equivalent and only 16% more demanding. The Americans are even demanding that the governments of EU member states justify any prospective vote against approval of the commercialization of US products (GMOs in particular), specifying the scientific bases and proof and the technical analyses and data behind their decision.
Wine and denominations of origin
According to the revelations, the United States is opposed to the EU request for it not to use its 17 wine names (so called ‘semi-generics’) for European wines. This means that it is not prepared to stop using denominations such as ‘Chianti’ and ‘Marsala,’ even though they are protected by Italian and European indications.
The negotiations would appear to make no reference to climate action, even though the Paris Summit agreements are very clear about the fact that commercial enterprises should endeavor to keep temperature increase under 1.5°C. If they failed to do so, we would face the risk of a climate crisis affecting millions of people all over the world.
The German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung highlights another aspect. ‘Whereas the European Union makes its proposals public,’ it writes, ‘the United States insists on keeping its positions secret to maintain room for tactical maneuver.’ As if that weren’t enough, Washington is threatening to block export tariff reductions for the European car industry, if duties on exports of US agricultural products to the EU are not eased concurrently.
Let us hope that what EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom says is true. Commenting on the Greenpeace leaks, she assures that, ‘No EU trade agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment. Trade agreements will not change our laws on GMOs, or how to produce safe beef, or how to protect the environment. Any EU trade deal can only change regulation by making it stronger. We might agree with a partner that rules on the safety of medicines would be tougher than before, for example, but never weaker. No trade deal will limit our ability to make new rules to protect our citizens or environment in the future.’ She goes on to say that, ‘So-called “consolidated texts” in a trade negotiation are not the same thing as an outcome. They reflect each side’s negotiating position, nothing else,’ adding that, ‘It is only normal that both parties in a negotiation want to achieve as many of their own objectives as possible.’
‘That does not mean that the other side gives in to those demands,’ she concludes. ‘That does not mean that the parties will meet halfway. In areas where we are too far apart in a negotiation, we simply will not agree.’ Though we are obliged to confide in the commissioner’s honesty, one doubt remains: if everything is being done in the interest of citizens, why not act in total transparency? Did we really have to wait for the Greenpeace revelations to find out what’s brewing?
For the sake of completeness, we wish to add that Greenpeace Netherlands does not offer access to the original documents, but had its leaks analyzed by Rechercheverbund Ndr, Wdr und Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German investigative research partnership that has already worked previously on high-profile cases. According to Greenpeace, the final document will consist of 25 to 30 chapters, so the consolidated chapters concerning e-commerce, financial services, rules of origin and trade remedies are still lacking, whereas the chapters on subjects such as energy and raw materials, investment protection and intellectual property rights have not yet reached the consolidation phase.
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