People read documents in a 'TTIP reading room' set up by Greenpeace in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.
© Ferdinand Ostrop/APPeople read documents in a 'TTIP reading room' set up by Greenpeace in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.
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 the closed-door talks to forge a so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would be the world's largest bilateral trade and investment agreement.

"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 facade of Berlin's parliament building.

'Public scrutiny'

Irish MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, who has been vocal in criticising what he calls the lack of transparency around the proposed deal, wrote on his Facebook today that the leaked documents showed "exactly why the negotiations need to be out in the open".

Flanagan said that the inner workings of the deal "must be exposed" and "brought into the glare of full public scrutiny".

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

They said the confidential documents prove that long-standing environmental protections are being ignored and that, for example, there is no mention at all in the proposed text of global goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

They also said that long-standing environmental protections with regards to trade "appear to be dropped" and that both sides of the proposed deal are "creating regime that places profit ahead of human, animal and plant life and health".

As well as this, Greenpeace said that said that corporations have been granted many opportunities to intervene in the negotiations, while "civil society has had little access to the negotiations".

Flanagan has previously criticised the European Parliament for not being more transparent during the negotiations, saying that only parts of texts relating to the trade deal "already agreed between the EU and the USA".

Recently, he recorded the process of going to view these documents in the Reading Room in the European Parliament.

"What we - the elected members of the European Parliament - should be looking at are the documents and issues currently being discussed, in particular the stance being adopted on our behalf by the EU negotiators," said Flanagan.


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 agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment," Malmstroem said in a blog.

The Sueddeutsche - the paper behind the publication of the so-called "Panama Papers" - 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 companies 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 "that was not and is not true".

Although the EU had made such a proposal, "the Americans flatly rejected it" and the issue had not been seriously negotiated yet.

TTIP is billed as a free-trade deal for the 21st century, focused on harmonising regulations, lowering barriers on investment, opening access to government contracts and addressing new areas like data trade.

"These leaked documents confirm what we have been saying for a long time," said Greenpeace EU director Jorgo Riss.
TTIP would put corporations at the centre of policy-making, to the detriment of environment and public health.
Source: AFP