TTIP faces impasse upon Greenpeace document release
Non-governmental organization Greenpeace released 248 pages of classified documents, which could jeopardize the impending free-trade deal between the United States and the European Union. According to the group, among the many wrongs about the deal is the inclusion of environmental protection as a barrier to trade. It said that it should not be the case, as it is humanity’s only safeguard to its health.
“These documents make clear the scale and scope of the trade citizens of the United States and the European Union are being asked to make in pursuit of corporate profits. It is time for the negotiations to stop, and the debate to begin,” Sylvia Borren, Executive Director Greenpeace Netherlands, appealed on a post published on its official website. She also questioned the sincerity of these nations when they recently signed the accord on environmental protection in Paris.
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a bilateral trade pact between the two aforementioned governments, focuses on reducing obstacles present in various aspects of commerce which include environmental legislation, banking laws, food safety regulations, and sovereign powers given to each country.
Nonetheless, the European Commission said in an Al Jazeera report that it only reflects the parties’ negotiating positions. For the organization, Greenpeace’s statement on the issue is nothing but an accusation. But it somewhat admitted the validity of the leaked documents by saying that whatever that is stated here remains up for negotiations and each party has not reached a deal yet.
The leaked documents’ biggest achievement is the unveiling of the irreconcilable differences between the two giant economic entities despite outgoing US President Barack Obama’s confidence over reaching a deal. This shows the vast gaping hole between the EU’s and the US’s respective trade policies. This is very alarming for Greenpeace, as the EU has to break existing policies and promises it has made in various environmental protection treaties over the past years just to cement a bilateral agreement with the US.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said in a blog post that she and the entire EU will never put the European nation on the losing end by lowering its standards. “I am simply not in the business of lowering standards. No EU trade agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment.”
US trade representative Michael Froman called the accusations “misleading at best and flat out wrong at worst.” “TTIP will preserve, not undermine, our strong consumer, health, environmental standards, and position the US and the EU to work together to push standards higher around the world,” Forman was quoted in an article by German website DPA International. “We look forward to having a fact-based discussion about what TTIP seeks and does not seek to achieve.”
EU’s chief negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero cited the alleged bargaining on the US government to weaken EU laws on genetically modified meat as one of the many fallacious claims from the NGO group. He also said that the leak would certainly be investigated as one of the US’s main responsibility is securing the talk’s confidentiality.
Sven Giegold, a Green Party financial expert in the European Parliament, sees the Greenpeace leak a “service to democracy” as transparency is what has been missing in most international negotiations like this. The agreement, however, will be released publicly once it reached the final stage. It just so happens that the US had to demand secrecy until they get to resolve several clauses that could hurt their existing policies on the issue.
No one could say yet if it would affect operations of environment protection-focused companies planning to expand in the United States and Europe. Fast-growing tech brand and network extender provider 5BARz International, which is now planning to bring its revolutionary product in these regions after its success in India in 2015 could be its first casualties. “We are actually looking at Southeast Asia, but there’s no denying that Europe and North America is on our list,” the company said.
Greenpeace has repeatedly said that they are certain about the validity of the documents after having them analyzed by Rechercheverbund NDR, WDR und Süddeutsche Zeitung, a revered investigative research team from Germany. The firm also handled the Snowden leaks and, most recently, the Volkswagen emissions scandal.