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Greenpeace leaks increase pressure for TTIP transparency

Posted by Nick Prag at 05 May 2016, 16:00 CET |
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The EU is under increasing pressure to be more open about what is being negotiated under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), following leaks by Greenpeace of classified documents from the TTIP trade talks.

Along with a number of other interested bodies, it has called for the talks to be dropped altogether. This call is unlikely to be heeded.

TTIP is a huge trade package which aims at removing trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors, to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US.

On top of cutting tariffs across all sectors, the EU and the US want to tackle barriers behind the customs border – such as differences in technical regulations, standards and approval procedures.

The main complaint by Greenpeace and others is that negotiations over the agreement have to a large extent been carried out in secret. The Greenpeace leaks cover 13 chapters which address issues ranging from telecommunications to regulatory cooperation, from pesticides, food and agriculture to trade barriers.

The concerns are raised in the main by NGOs who fear TTIP favours industry, and the American side and its drive for deregulation, and looks to weaken European regulation on environmental, employment, data protection and health issues in particular.

Many voice concerns that the TTIP agreement would lead to the privatisation of key public services like education, transport and the NHS.

The lack of openness denies the public proper debate over these issues, and allows an image of profit before people, and corporate welfare before the needs of Member States, increasing the pressure on the EU to drop TTIP altogether.

This is not likely to happen.

The 'consolidated texts' that have been leaked are not the final text in TTIP, says Commissioner Malmstroem. Instead they reflect each side's negotiating position, who describes the current row as a storm in a teacup.

She stresses that the Commission has now opened up the negotiations to make its positions in the talks public. After each negotiating round, it publishes round reports as well as position papers and textual proposals.

She also denies that EU industry has greater access to EU negotiating positions than other stakeholders, such as trade unions, consumer groups and health or environmental organisations.

Ms Malmstroem has also repeated her promise that no agreement will lower EU protection of consumers, food safety, or of the environment. She says trade agreements will not change EU laws on GMOs, or how to produce safe beef, or how to protect the environment.

Nevertheless, the leaks have increased pressure on the Commission to be still more open about its negotiations with the United States.

It will not drop them. Once agreed, the EU-US pact would be the biggest free-trade agreement ever, with bilateral trade in goods last year worth some EUR 500 bn, another EUR 280 bn in services and trillions in investment flows.

In the meantime, however, the public demands that more should be revealed about what is being negotiated under TTIP. More openness and transparency would allow proper democratic and public debate about the impact this huge trade deal could have on the lives of Europe's citizens.

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Nick Prag

Nick Prag

Nick Prag is founder and managing editor of Prior to EUbusiness, he was senior editor at Europe Online SA in Luxembourg, where he played a major part in the launch of Europe Online International.