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:
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 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.
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.