Two hundred and forty eight pages of the controversial Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Deal (TTIP) have been sensationally leaked by the environmentalist group Greenpeace. The news marks the first point in which left and right wing activists have come together over TTIP, the European Union, and anti-corporatism.
The ‘free trade deal’ – still being negotiated between the European Union and United States – appears to hand over massive policy making authority to global corporations, so says Greenpeace’s EU director Jorgo Riss.
But the leak has been dismissed by EU officials as “a storm in a teacup”.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said the details included in the leak simply reflect the EU’s negotiating positions, and not the final deal that EU and U.S. bureaucrats hope to have finalised by the end of 2016.
Mr. Riss and Greenpeace allege that the deal threatens consumer protections and environmental regulations.
Last month U.S. president Barack Obama told the BBC: “There’s still barriers that exist that prevent businesses and individuals that are providing services to each other to be able to do so seamlessly. The main thing between the United States and Europe is trying to just break down some of the regulatory differences that make it difficult to do business back and forth.”
But Germany’s Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel shot back, claiming the hold up was on the U.S. end:
“The Americans want to hold on to their ‘Buy American’ idea. We can’t accept that. They don’t want to open their public tenders to European companies. For me that goes against free trade. If the Americans stick to this position, we don’t need the free trade treaty. And TTIP will fail.”
But the deal – which Democrat front runner Hillary Clinton has called an “economic NATO” – is still being pursued. British campaigners have expressed concerns that the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) part of the deal would end up with American healthcare firms suing Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) for being “uncompetitive”, just like the UPS delivery service did with Canada’s nationalised postal service.
“These leaked documents give us an unparalleled look at the scope of US demands to lower or circumvent EU protections for environment and public health as part of TTIP. The EU position is very bad, and the US position is terrible. The prospect of a TTIP compromising within that range is an awful one. The way is being cleared for a race to the bottom in environmental, consumer protection and public health standards,” Mr. Riss commented.
And corporations are, according to the text, able to influence policy making processes across the U.S. and EU using “working groups” and “committees”. European environmental activists worry about light-touch U.S. environmental law being implemented in the European Union, while others express concern over the ISDS which gives corporations the ability to sue national governments for policy making that affects their profit margins.
According to Deutsche Welle, Greenpeace Netherlands said it “released the documents to facilitate a proper democratic debate”, adding: “The secrecy surrounding the negotiating process, which started over two-and-a-half years ago, is harmful to the democratic ground principles of both the EU and the US”.
Edward Alden, a trade expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, warned last month that a British exit from the EU would throw the whole TTIP project “into the air”. He said: “Conclusion of the TTIP would fall down on the agenda… Everybody would be scrambling to try to figure out what is the new relationship between Great Britain and Europe.”
This puts the ‘Brexit’ camp in the UK referendum in a unique position – being able to unify left and right wing campaigners to fight against TTIP. Latest polls show the vote in the UK is around 50-50 between the two camps.