Greenpeace leaks US-EU trade papers

Berlin, May 2

Greenpeace charged today that a massive US-EU trade deal would place corporate interests above the environment and consumer safety, as it released classified documents from the negotiations.

The campaign group published 248 pages online to ‘shine a light’ on closed-door talks to forge a so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would be world’s largest bilateral trade and investment pact.

“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,” said Greenpeace as it presented the documents in Berlin.

Both Washington and Brussels want the mega-deal completed this year before US President Barack Obama leaves office, but the agreement in the making has faced mounting opposition on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Europe there is deep suspicion that TTIP will erode social, ecological and consumer protections to the advantage of big business, while the US has also seen rising protectionist sentiment.

Greenpeace said the papers show, for example, that the US wants to be able to scrap existing EU rules in areas such as food labelling or approval of dangerous chemicals if it they spell barriers to free trade.

“TTIP is about a huge transfer of power from people to big business,” the group argued, having also projected an image of a classified text passage onto the façade of Berlin’s parliament building.

In Brussels, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem insisted that the papers ‘reflect each side’s negotiating position, nothing else. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are areas where the EU and the US have different views’.

“It begs to be said, again and again: no EU trade pact will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment,” Malmstrom said.

Greenpeace said the cache, a snapshot from ongoing talks, represents two-thirds of TTIP draft text as of latest round of talks in April, and covers a range of sectors from telecoms to autos to agriculture.

Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily, which received the documents early, said they indeed ‘show that the opponents’ fears are not unfounded ... They show that the reality of the negotiations is worse than these dark forebodings’.

The Munich-based daily said the papers show that the US side is trying to use the carrot of easing restrictions on auto imports from Europe for concessions on its agricultural exports, perhaps including genetically modified foods.

The Sueddeutsche — the paper behind the publication of the so-called ‘Panama Papers’ — also charged that some political leaders who publicly defend TTIP ‘either don’t know the status of negotiations, or are deliberately leaving the public in the dark’.

The newspaper focussed on a controversial TTIP proposal to set up private investor courts that would allow multinational firms to sue governments if they deem public policy to hinder fair competition. While Brussels and Berlin had suggested, after strong opposition, that the investor courts are off the table, the newspaper said ‘that was not and is not true’.