Greenpeace Leak Exposes Big EU-US Rifts, US Thuggishness, in TTIP “Trade” Negotiations

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News stories in recent weeks have been depicting the toxic “trade” deal, the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, as looking remote due to rising public opposition, particularly in Europe.

A Greenpeace leak, to be made public in full Monday but previewed to the Guardian and Süddeutsche Zeitung, show that the rifts are much deeper than pitchmen on either side of the pond would have you believe. These leaks are particularly significant because they are fresh, meaning of current negotiating documents. This means that unlike the previous TTP leaks via Wikileaks, which were of selected chapters and then at least a negotiating round behind the state of play, means that someone with a seat at the table is not happy and intended to throw another spanner into the works. And while Americans may not pay much attention to these leaks, the evidence of US bullying, as well as threats to European consumer safety on multiple fronts, is almost certain to further inflame grass roots resistance to the pact.

The Greenpeace leak not only catches out the Administration as greatly overstating how likely a deal is to be reached this year (a trick we’ve called out repeatedly in the context of the TPP), but it also exposes the EU side as prepared to fib to the EU parliament (which makes me wonder if that was the trigger for the leak, that it was a dissenter upset about the planned misrepresentation). From the Guardian:

“Discussions on cosmetics remain very difficult and the scope of common objectives fairly limited,” says one internal note by EU trade negotiators. Because of a European ban on animal testing, “the EU and US approaches remain irreconcilable and EU market access problems will therefore remain,” the note says.

Talks on engineering were also “characterised by continuous reluctance on the part of the US to engage in this sector,” the confidential briefing says.

These problems are not mentioned in a separate report on the state of the talks, also leaked, which the European commission has prepared for scrutiny by the European parliament.

One of the most dangerous sets of proposed changes would be to stymie the ability of Europeans to issue new regulations. Again from the Guardian:

US proposals include an obligation on the EU to inform its industries of any planned regulations in advance, and to allow them the same input into EU regulatory processes as European firms.

American firms could influence the content of EU laws at several points along the regulatory line, including through a plethora of proposed technical working groups and committees.

“Before the EU could even pass a regulation, it would have to go through a gruelling impact assessment process in which the bloc would have to show interested US parties that no voluntary measures, or less exacting regulatory ones, were possible,” [Jorgo] Riss [director of Greenpeace] said.

And get a load of this:

The US is also proposing new articles on “science and risk” to give firms greater regulatory say. Disputes over pesticides residues and food safety would be dealt with by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Codex Alimentarius system.

Environmentalists say the body has loose rules on corporate influence, allowing employees of companies such as BASF, Nestle and Coca Cola to sit on – and sometimes lead – national delegations. Some 44% of its decisions on pesticides residues have been less stringent than EU ones, with 40% of rough equivalence and 16% being more demanding, according to Greenpeace.

GM foods could also find a widening window into Europe, with the US pushing for a working group to adopt a “low level presence initiative”. This would allow the import of cargo containing traces of unauthorised GM strains. The EU currently blocks these because of food safety and cross-pollination concerns.

The EU has not yet accepted the US demands, but they are uncontested in the negotiators’ note, and no counter-proposals have been made in these areas.

Cross pollination is a big deal and the EU has a right to be concerned. Once that happens to a meaningful degree, you no longer have untainted species. My understanding is that that is what has happened to corn, that it is now impossible (at least in North America) to find any corn that is “native”. In other words, you can’t go back if long-term or cocktail effects are found down the road.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung version (hat tip martha r) gives considerably more detail on how European rules, both the substance and the process, contrast with America’s. And the only conclusion you can draw from reading the differences is that the US is hell bent to achieve a regulatory race to the bottom:

But the export of agricultural products is not the main focus of the U.S.. Washington has also set its sights on controversial genetically modified foods that are mostly prohibited within the Europe Union. Both sides have often stressed up until now that the U.S. will respect European concerns in this matter, and that Europe’s citizens do not have to be worried about this issue. But the confidential material paints a very different picture of the situation. “It is really quite interesting to see the demands the U.S. has made,” says Klaus Müller, chairman of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations, while evaluating the documents. “Perusing the documents has shown that nearly all of our fears regarding the U.S.’ TTIP intentions for the food market have been proven to be justified.”

The U.S., for example, demands that statutory prohibitions on products to protect human health should only be allowed to be passed if it has been scientifically proven that these products really are harmful. The EU bans products such as hormone-treated meat or genetically modified food as a precautionary measure if only the slightest hint of risk emerges, whereas the U.S. only bans them if people have already been harmed as a result of consuming said products.

Consider how the US wants to prevent further consumer safeguards from being implemented in Europe:

The U.S. demands in a chapter on consumer protection, among other things, that prior to passing a ban the EU should evaluate “any alternatives to achieve the appropriate level of protection,” meaning that no law in this regard should be passed in the first place. In addition to this, the EU should also publicly explain “whether any of those alternatives are significantly less restrictive to trade.” The EU counters that it would decide itself whether or not to allow for controversial U.S. foods to pass across their borders, seeing as the “appropriate level of sanitary protection rests solely with the importing Party.”

Another serious point of contention is legislative cooperation. Both the U.S. and Europe gave the impression that they were mostly in agreement regarding legislative regulation. But the negotiation papers suggest something very different. While the EU stresses its right to legislative self-determination in the documents, the U.S. wants to severely curtail the scope of European legislators in regards to economic decisions where it has demonstrated in several suggestions it has made. One example is the demand formulated by the U.S. that “each Party shall maintain procedures that promote the consideration of the following factors when conducting a regulatory impact assessment (RIA) for a regulation.” Namely, this means that the EU is supposed to introduce a process that will evaluate “the need for a proposed regulation” in conjunction with an analysis of “the anticipated costs and benefits (quantitative, qualitative, or both) of such alternatives.”

“It will severely complicate legislation in environmental and consumer matters should the Americans assert themselves in this matter,” says Markus Krajewski, Professor of Public Law in Erlangen, in regard to the currently published suggestions made by the U.S..

U.S. legislation is fundamentally different than that of the EU. In the EU, for example, the use of 1,308 various chemicals in cosmetics is prohibited in light of suspicions that they may be carcinogenic. The responsible U.S. authority on the other hand, according to consumer protection organizations, prohibits no more than exactly 11 substances.

According to the documents, Washington is threatening to prevent the easing of exports for the European car industry in order to force Europe to buy more U.S. agricultural products. The U.S. government concurrently has criticized the fundamental prevention principal of the EU Consumer Centre which protects 500 million Europeans from consuming genetically modified food and hormone-treated meat. The documents further reveal the fact that the U.S. has blocked the urgent European call to replace the controversial private arbitration tribunals, responsible for corporative lawsuits, with a public State model; instead, Washington has made a suggestion on the matter that had hitherto not been disclosed to the public.

The publication of these TTIP documents provides citizens with an unfiltered insight into the negotiations between the U.S. and Europe. Ever since the start of negotiations three years ago, the public could only try to guess what both sides were discussing, which has prompted millions of people to take to the streets in protest of TTIP. While the EU is making its suggestions publicly available, the U.S. insists on keeping their stances on issues secret. Washington utilizes this tactic to ensure a larger scope for negotiations. The disclosure of these 16 TTIP negotiation papers finally offers a fuller transparency for the 800 million people spread over two continents whose lives will be affected by the biggest bilateral trade agreement in history.

The full documents will be published today, which should lead to not only more news stories but also commentary, particularly from opponents to the deal. I hope readers of the press in Europe will give us more details, both here and in the comments section to our daily Links, of the impact of these revelations on the TTIP negotiations.

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  1. Pavel

    Here is the Greenpeace TIPP Leaks site:

    Greenpeace Netherlands has released secret TTIP negotiation documents. We have done so to provide much needed transparency and trigger an informed debate on the treaty. This treaty is threatening to have far reaching implications for the environment and the lives of more than 800 million citizens in the EU and US.

    Whether you care about environmental issues, animal welfare, labour rights or internet privacy, you should be concerned about what is in these leaked documents. They underline the strong objections civil society and millions of people around the world have voiced: TTIP is about a huge transfer of power from people to big business.

    You can download all the documents below, as a whole and per chapter. For more background info on the content of these documents and TTIP in general, please check here. Press contacts can be found here.

    Let’s see how much coverage of this the NYT (“newspaper of record”) gives this rather significant document. I found the link just now via Hacker News, which these days provides more of a record than the Grey Lady, alas. (Alas for those who remember the NYT of 40 years ago when it did a better job.)

  2. Johnny Lunchbox

    this trade agreement will be another bureaucratic piece of red tape that will get in the way protecting consumers. we have so many goverment agencies that are so toothless and useless. FDA. SEC. EPA. DOJ. ECT ECT ECT. Our political system is an absolute joke. We the people for the people ( MY ASS) special interest bought and paid for.
    Run! Run! Run like the wind!

    1. Carla

      You can add USDA to that list. In December 2015, we lost Country of Origin Labeling for beef, pork and lamb as part of the omnibus bill. In a cruel irony, Congress had actually expanded COOL requirements under GW Bush, while Obama signed the 2015 bill that was the first step in gutting them.

      I want to know where my food is coming from. Where is consumer choice when we actually need it?

      1. Vatch

        Instead of eliminating Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) for those foods, the government should have expanded the law to include more types of food. ISDS under the WTO forced the U.S. government to choose between eliminating COOL and paying billions in penalties to foreign countries. There are many reasons to oppose the TPP and TTIP, but this single ISDS ruling should be a sufficient reason for any rational person to oppose them

        1. kitty tominey

          Only eat foods from sources that are identified. We rarely buy canned anything, pre-prepared anything. Frankly it is easy to cook from scratch – modern kitchens and refrigeration make it easy.

      2. reslez

        The reason we lost COOL requirements is because of another “free” trade agreement. The WTO ruled against the US law, so Congress (happily, I am sure) repealed it.

  3. McKillop

    Advised by you of the Canadian Parliament’s call for public input to a committee studying TTIP, at a late date (after staying sleepless and guilt-ridden until the last date for submission) I wrote a fairly long piece analyzing the various issues I have through your reportage and analysis. The work was done despite my illness and age and mistrust of my ability.
    I was fairly proud of my criibbing
    Somehow or another I clicked the wrong click and sent my hours of work into the void. Alas!
    With this work you’ve presented I will just cite or copy and paste and send to Charlie Angus, an NDP member representing a riding north of mine. I’ll also challenge the Liberal with the information. And some fecebook ‘friends’.
    Thanks for you efforts. (The 3rd sentence of the 2nd paragraph might be revised)
    Had I any monet whatsoever I’d slip you and GP a bit but I’m stony cold stressed and could use a donation myself! Please accept my appreciation instead.

  4. Praedor

    Europe has it right on consumer and environmental protection. If a company wants to introduce a chemical into the environment, cosmetics, or food supply then they MUST prove it is safe beforehand. It is unacceptable to only deal with them after harm has been done (the US way) after introduction. This sort of criminal operation is why it is impossible to find any US citizen or wildlife that is NOT contaminated with glyphosate or other deadly chemicals.

    1. Robert Coutinho

      To be fair, it is impossible to prove a negative. However, your point is (mostly) justifiable. A company that wishes to introduce some sort of chemical into what is a (usually or mostly) chemical-free commodity (food, wine, etc.) should have to justify why it needs to introduce that chemical and why they believe it will not cause harm. The evidence needs to be fact-based, preferably independently verified, and trustworthy.

  5. Jack Heape

    The saddest thing about this leak is that it glaringly demonstrates just how much the US government in in the pocket of the big corporations. You read things like this and it fills you with despair. I was probably already in a funk because I also read Krugman’s article this morning from last week (a terrible article, disjointed and rambling) about how much better off the US is than the EU.

    1. perpetualWAR

      Yes, it does. Despair seems to be found on every street corner in the US these days.

  6. DJG

    Yves: Extremely uncomplimentary article in La Repubblica, which is Rome’s newspaper of record (and much better edited and written than the New York Times).

    The first paragraph focuses on the destruction of the system of D.O.C. wines and other products, something that the Italians have built with great care and are justifiably proud of. Under the influence of Slow Food, D.O.C. designations even extended to such humble products as the famous little lentils of Umbria.

    1. DJG

      The article about the revelations in La Stampa was more tempered, in line with La Stampa’s tradition of being tempered to a fault.

      The documents themselves are being published by an Italian web site that I had never heard of (listed in the article in La Stampa). I don’t find the documents at that site. Hmmm. Un mistero d’Italia.

      Nevertheless, when it is in La Stampa and in La Repubblica, it is news.

    2. DJG

      Top story in Il Fatto Quotidiano, Italy’s gadfly newspaper, which always highlights corruption (and for good reason). Highly uncomplimentary.

      The last paragraph discusses organization of demonstrations in the next few days. 300 organizations. Also, a number of towns and cities have organized against the treaty.

      1. perpetualWAR

        Where are the US non-profits organizing against the treaty? Oh yeah, they are funded by government dollars, so they will all tow the line.

        Our country is so bought off, it makes you want to cry.

  7. hemeantwell

    US proposals include an obligation on the EU to inform its industries of any planned regulations in advance, and to allow them the same input into EU regulatory processes as European firms.

    This is going to play well for the Brexiteers. Arguments for Brexit should talk about fighting for a general good that is advanced by dismantling the EU’s administrative gutting of European democracy.

    1. James Levy

      It would if people could have one iota of faith that British administrators under the current dispensation of power would do better. I really think they would be worse, just as I think that British courts would be worse if no appeal to the European treaties were possible. British elites would like to leave British subjects with no real rights vis-a-vis government actions at all.

  8. RBHoughton

    Better recognition of European dependence on Russia for energy and the commercial benefits of the silk road through to China might enable European negotiators to see TTIP in more realistic terms. There is an alternative.

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