by Tyler Durden
May 01, 2016
Several weeks ago we learned that not all is well in the ongoing
negotiations to impose Obama's landmark Transatlantic Free Trade
Agreement, also known as
the TTIP, when unexpectedly Europe
threatened to impose visas on Americans and Canadians.
commented at the time, this latest
tension may have been driven,
"by the fact that the United States
hasn't yet lifted visa requirements for some EU member countries
But more likely, this is just a bit
of gamesmanship on the part of the EU.
The US and European Union are in
ongoing negotiation regarding the Transatlantic Trade and
Investment Partnership, and there appear to be some sticking
points that the two sides can't quite come to an agreement on -
namely labor, environmental, and regulatory standards."
As Reuters added,
"trade negotiations between Brussels
and Washington are at a crucial point since both sides believe
their transatlantic agreement, known as TTIP, stands a better
chance of passing before President
leaves the White House in January."
Now, according to leaked negotiating
drafts and internal positions, which were obtained by Greenpeace and
seen by the Guardian (TTIP - Greenpeace Netherlands Released Secret
Negotiation Documents), it seems the stumbling blocks
ahead of the TTIP's implementation are indeed substantial, and
the Guardian reports, talks for a
free trade deal between Europe and the US face a serious impasse
with "irreconcilable" differences in some areas.
The leaked texts also show that the two sides are at odds,
"over US demands that would require
the EU to break promises it has made on environmental
As Obama said last week during his
whirlwind tour of Europe, and especially his visit to Hanover where
thousands of Germans were protesting the TTRIP at the same time, he
was confident a deal could be reached.
"But the leaked negotiating drafts
and internal positions, which were obtained by Greenpeace and
seen by the Guardian, paint a very different picture."
Protesters wear masks
of Barack Obama and Angela Merkel
as they demonstrate against TTIP free trade agreement
"Discussions on cosmetics remain
very difficult and the scope of common objectives fairly
limited," says one internal note by EU trade negotiators.
Because of a European ban on animal
"the EU and US approaches remain
irreconcilable and EU market access problems will therefore
remain," the note says.
Guardian adds that according to the
confidential briefing, talks on engineering were also,
"characterized by continuous
reluctance on the part of the US to engage in this sector."
The biggest concern appears to be the
hypocritical stance by both sides on environmental protections:
while both US and European public
officials have railed for the need to safeguard the environment,
the note presents a starkly different reality dictated by the
corporations that are the key beneficiaries from the TTIP.
Jorgo Riss, the director of
Greenpeace EU, said:
"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,
public health standards"
More details from
US 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.
American firms could influence the
content of EU laws at several points along the regulatory line,
including through a plethora of proposed technical working
groups and committees.
"Before the EU could even pass a
regulation, it would have to go through a grueling impact
assessment process in which the bloc would have to show
interested US parties that no voluntary measures, or less
exacting regulatory ones, were possible," Riss said.
Not surprisingly, environmentalists are
concerned by the undue influence afforded to corporations.
They say the body has loose rules on
corporate influence, allowing employees of companies such as
Coca Cola to sit on - and sometimes
lead - national delegations.
Some 44% of its decisions on pesticides
residues have been less stringent than EU ones, with 40% of rough
equivalence and 16% being more demanding, according to Greenpeace.
Another cause of concern is genetically modified foods because as
the Guardian writes,
"GM foods could also find a widening
window into Europe, with the US pushing for a working group to
adopt a 'low level presence initiative'. This would allow the
import of cargo containing traces of unauthorized GM strains.
The EU currently blocks these
because of food safety and cross-pollination concerns."
That won't be the case should the TTIP
More importantly, it appears that the EU has not yet accepted the US
demands, but they are uncontested in the negotiators' note, and no
counter-proposals have been made in these areas suggesting that far
from its official stance, Europe may simply roll over on most US
(and corporate) demands.
Europeans will likely see this as an act of betrayal by the
in January, the EU trade
commissioner Cecilia Malmstr÷m said [TTIP
- What consumers Have to 'Gain']
the precautionary principle, obliging regulatory caution where
there is scientific doubt, was a core and non-negotiable EU
"We will defend the precautionary
approach to regulation in Europe, in TTIP and in all our other
But the principle is not mentioned in
the 248 pages of TTIP negotiating texts.
The European commission has also
promised to safeguard environmental laws, defend international
standards and protect the EU's right to set high green
benchmarks in future.
The new leak will not placate critics of
the deal, who have pointed to attempts by fossil fuel firms and
others to influence its outcome, as a sign of things to come.
Finally, if there was any doubt as to who the true negotiators
behind the deal are, this should clear it up: the EU negotiators
internal note says,
"the US expressed that it would have
to consult with its chemical industry on how to position itself"
on issues of market access for non-agricultural goods.
Where industry lobbying in regulatory
processes is concerned, the US also "insisted" that the EU be
"required" to involve US experts in its development of
Finally, recall that having started off with majority public support
on both sides of the Atlantic, as 55% of Germans and 53% of
Americans thought the TTIP deals was beneficial for the two
respective countries as recently as 2014, a recent
YouGov poll found that support for
the deal had tumbled to just 17% and 15% respectively...
...while those who think the TTIP is bad for Germany and the US, are
now well ahead:
We doubt today's revelations will change this dire trajectory.
As a result the TTIP - which will surely
be implemented due to its overwhelming corporate support - will
demonstrate even more vividly just how "undemocratic" trade treaties
have become in the New Normal, when they are designed to
serve a handful of very special (and