Leaked Documents On U.S.-E.U. Trade Deal Paint Worrisome Environmental Picture, Greenpeace Says

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MARKUS SCHREIBER
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MARKUS SCHREIBER

By now, most in the environmental community know that there are major environmental and climate change concerns surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — that it could empower corporations to sue governments over environmental decisions and policies, for instance. But another trade deal, one being forged between the United States and European Union, has gotten less attention — until now.

On Monday, Greenpeace Netherlands leaked documents from negotiations surrounding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The 248 pages of documents — which account for about a third of the total text — illustrate four major environmental concerns, Greenpeace says.

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First, “nothing indicating climate protection can be found in the obtained texts.” Second, the trade agreement would put the “precautionary principle,” which is generally used in the E.U., in jeopardy. Under the precautionary principle, actions or products that could have a negative impact on the environment or people’s health are guilty until proven innocent — that is, the action or product must be proven to be not harmful. In the United States, the more common approach is to wait until there’s a full scientific consensus — or at least close to one — that something is harmful before action is taken.

“The precautionary principle, enshrined in the E.U. Treaty, is not mentioned in the chapter on Regulatory Cooperation, nor in any other of the obtained 12 chapters,” Greenpeace notes. “On the other hand the U.S. demand for a ‘risk based’ approach that aims to manage hazardous substances rather than avoid them, finds its way into various chapters. This approach undermines the ability of regulators to take preventive measures, for example regarding controversial substances like hormone disrupting chemicals.”

Third, the leaked TTIP documents don’t reference the General Exceptions rule, a World Trade Organization rule that provides countries the the ability to “adopt policy measures that are inconsistent with [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] disciplines, but necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, or relating to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources.” And lastly, Greenpeace says the documents show that the trade deal is too friendly to big business.

Environmental Advocates Tell Congress: Reject The TPPClimate by CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/THINK PROGRESS It’s something that all the major presidential candidates – on both…thinkprogress.org“While the proposals threaten environmental and consumer protection, big business gets what it wants,” the environmental group said. “Opportunities to participate in decision making are granted to corporations to intervene at the earliest stages of the decision making process.”

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The E.U. is stressing that the trade deal isn’t complete yet. In a blog post, European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said that there were “quite a number of misconceptions” in the press regarding the leaks and the agreement.

“First of all, and contrary to what many seem to believe, so-called ‘consolidated texts’ in a trade negotiation are not the same thing as an outcome,” she said. “They reflect each side’s negotiating position, nothing else. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are areas where the E.U. and the US have different views.”

“It begs to be said, again and again: No E.U. trade agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment,” she continued. “Trade agreements will not change our laws on GMOs, or how to produce safe beef, or how to protect the environment.”

Ignacio Garcia Bercero, chief negotiator for the E.U., told BBC that Greenpeace was “flatly wrong” in some of its assertions about the text and also reiterated that the negotiations weren’t complete.

Environmental groups, however, remain concerned about the TTIP and the TPP. In a report this year, the Sierra Club warned that the trade deals would make it easier for corporations to sue governments over decisions or policies that they don’t agree with — similar to TransCanada suing the United States over rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.

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“Like NAFTA, the TPP and TTIP would give foreign corporations broad rights, including the right to challenge new fossil fuel restrictions that thwart their ‘expectations’ for a stable business environment,” the Sierra Club’s report reads. “The trade deals would empower the corporations to bypass U.S. courts and take such challenges to tribunals of three private lawyers, unaccountable to any domestic legal system, under a process known as “investor-state dispute settlement.”

Friends of the Earth has referred to the “corporate bill of rights” that would emerge from the deals, and has told ThinkProgress that the TPP “contradicts the president’s climate policy.” The TPP was signed by 12 countries in February; the European Commission says it hopes to come to a deal over the TTIP later this year.

The Sierra Club spoke out against the TTIP Monday, with the Sierra Club saying that the deal “would put President Obama’s trade policy on the wrong side of history.”

“The U.S. should be leading on climate action, not using trade rules to allow dirty fuel corporations to pollute more,” Ilana Solomon, director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, said in a statement. “This leak, along with the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, shows the immediate need for a new model of trade that protects working families and healthy communities.”