“There are no red lines which would clearly protect environment and health.” — Jorgo Riss, director of Greenpeace EU
There has been a major leak concerning another “trade” agreement that is currently being negotiated in secret. This time it is the TTIP and it was leaked by Greenpeace.
TPP, TTIP, What?
First, some explanation. If you are reading this you’ve been hearing a lot about the TPP, which is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There’s another “trade” agreement being negotiated called the TTIP, which is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. So for shorthand on the shorthand: TPP = Pacific, TTIP = Atlantic.
The TPP (Pacific) negotiations have been completed. The TPP negotiations took place in a secret process dominated by the giant multinational corporations, and the final agreement is waiting to be approved or rejected by Congress — probably during the “lame duck” session, because that is when members are least likely to be held accountable for their votes.
The TTIP (Atlantic; you may hear it referred to as “tee-tip”), on the other hand, is still being negotiated, also in a secret process dominated by the giant multinational corporations.
The Big Leak
Now, back to the story. There has been a leak of parts of the TTIP (Atlantic). Once again, we have to learn about our own government’s positions from leaks instead of through transparent, democratic processes that would impose accountability. And once again we learn that our own government’s positions are actually the positions of the giant multinational corporations and not at all in the interests of We the People, or of the citizens of the countries we are negotiating with.
Here is what the leak shows. Just as we saw happen with the TPP (Pacific), the big corporations are trying to use a “trade” deal to maneuver governments to sign something that gets governments out of their way. The TPP lets corporations around the Pacific bypass the rules and regulations of the governments that sign onto the agreement. It gives corporations the ability to move jobs and production to countries with extremely low wages and minimal worker and environmental protections, and it stops governments from having the ability to do anything about it.
This leak shows that the U.S. government has entered into negotiations asking for the same thing with the Atlantic countries. TTIP limits their sovereign powers to regulate what the giant, multinational corporations do, to bring them under the jurisdiction of sovereign courts, to control their size and power, and to tax them and otherwise protect citizens from their profit-seeking actions. For example, the proposals would actually lower existing European governmental standards for things like food and drug safety, in favor of increasing the profits of giant American and other multinational corporations. It would end the European bans on animal testing, on a number of pesticides (even one that “chemically castrates male frogs”), on GMO contamination in foods, even the “precautionary principle” that requires pharmaceutical companies to prove drugs are safe before offering them to the public.
Some Coverage Explains More
The Guardian, in “Leaked TTIP documents cast doubt on EU-U.S. trade deal,” explains “U.S. demands that would require the EU to break promises it has made on environmental protection.” But what about the things these governments are telling their public?
The public document offers a robust defence of the EU’s right to regulate and create a court-like system for disputes, unlike the internal note, which does not mention them.
Jorgo Riss, the director of Greenpeace EU, said: “These leaked documents give us an unparalleled look at the scope of U.S. demands to lower or circumvent EU protections for environment and public health as part of TTIP. The EU position is very bad, and the U.S. 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.”
U.S. proposals include an obligation on the EU to inform its industries of any planned regulations in advance, and to allow them the same input into EU regulatory processes as European firms.
The New York Times, in “Greenpeace Leaks U.S.-E.U. Trade Deal Documents,” explains,
The Sierra Club said the documents showed that the Americans were proposing to allow corporations to “petition” for the repeal of a regulation if it was “more burdensome than necessary to achieve its objective,” given its impact on trade, and that the Europeans had proposed allowing certain environmental standards to be deemed “technical barriers to trade,” which would, perhaps, weaken labels that require the climate footprint of a product or service to be disclosed.
The group also warned that the text included trade rules that could be used against “buy local” programs that support local clean-energy jobs in nearly two dozen American states.
According to Greenpeace’s director, these proposals “would put corporations at the center of policymaking, to the detriment of environment and public health.”
If these proposals are enacted the giant corporations will have power to, according to a statement from Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen, “block, slow, undermine and repeal European regulations.… [T]he Regulatory Cooperation chapter poses a major threat to health, safety, environmental, labor, consumer, civil and political rights, and other regulatory protections. The U.S. proposals in the Regulatory Cooperation chapter seek to export many of the worst features of U.S. rule-making.” The U.S. proposals are “proposals are affirmatively hostile to the precautionary principle.”
This Shows It Is Time to Remake Our Trade Negotiating Process
This leak shows that it is time to completely reformat the way the U.S. initiates and negotiates trade deals. Instead of our current “captured,” corporate-dominated process, rigged from the start to produce “trade” deals that only benefit the giant corporations, their executives and their Wall Street shareholders, we need a process that includes from the start all of the stakeholders in international trade. Consumer groups, labor groups, environmental groups, democracy groups, human rights groups and all other stakeholders must be represented in this process from the start. The process must also be transparent, so the public knows what is being negotiated in their name, from the start.
This is the only way we can come out of the process with actual trade deals that bring about actual, beneficial trade between countries that actually lifts all people on all sides of trade borders.