Earlier this month Greenpeace published a series of previously unreleased documents relating to the negotiations for the EU-US free trade agreement. Despite what many may think this 280 page release of documents was nothing shocking, it reaffirmed the negotiating positions of both the EU that are widely available from the Commission and it put on paper the US position on specific issues, which MEPs and MPs have been able to see for a long time via reading rooms.
Specifically, these "leaked" documents are known as "consolidated texts" where the EU and US positions are placed side by side, in order to facilitate negotiations, to bring the two positions towards a compromise acceptable to both sides.
To be clear, these documents simply outline the negotiating positions of the respective sides, and do not constitute a final agreement, as such agreement does not currently exist.
In any event, most of the EU legal proposals have already been published on the Commission's website for some time; TTIP represents the most transparent agreement ever negotiated by the EU. It is the US positions here that have been provoking most interest, as they have not been previously been made public.The Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström also responded with a post on her blog. It is important that these claims are equally scrutinised and fact-checked.
CLAIM 1: TTIP will eliminate the Precautionary Principle: FALSE
Greenpeace alleges that negotiations will witness the elimination of the in the EU. This is untrue.
What is the Precautionary Principle
The precautionary principle allows the EU to react quickly in the face of any potentially dangerous phenomenon, product or process subject entering the EU market.
Why TTIP won't affect this?
Firstly, in the legal offer made public in March concerning the EU's position on regulatory cooperation, it is clearly stated that nothing in the chapter would in any way affect the fundamental principles of decision making in the EU, and the offer specifically mentions the principles as established in the EU Treaty, which includes the precautionary principle.
Put simply, the EU's fundamental regulatory principles concerning public health will remain unchanged by TTIP and nothing in the agreement will undermine in any way legal protections for EU citizens. It should also be recognised that any FTA which eliminated the precautionary principle would likely quickly be found to be in contravention of the EU Treaties by the European Court of Justice and annulled.
CLAIM 2: TTIP will eliminate the WTO Exemption Rule: FALSE
Based on these incomplete documents Greenpeace claim that the absence of the WTO Exemption Rule in writing spells the end of compliance with world trade rules and existing exemptions for specific sectors.
What is the WTO Exemption Rule?
The WTO General Exemptions Rule is a foundational principle of global trade since the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which allows nations to regulate trade "to protect human, animal and plant life and health," or for the "conservation of exhaustible natural resources." Greenpeace allege that its absence from the 280 documents "suggests both sides a creating a regime that places profit ahead of human, animal and plant life"
Why TTIP won't affect this?
All EU and US FTAs until this point have incorporated these exemptions into the core text of the respective Agreement, and TTIP will be no exception. This is standard practice in free trade agreements worldwide. The fact that it is not mentioned in the consolidated texts in Greenpeace's possession is because it will be laid down in another part of the Treaty, when finalised, which is not yet ready in consolidated form.
In any case, any FTA which did not incorporate this basic principle governing the flow of world trade would be unacceptable to UK Conservatives.
CLAIM 3: Industry has a privileged seat in negotiations: FALSE
Greenpeace has alleged that industry is taking over and civil society has been pushed out. This allegation stems from a single quote retrieved by Greenpeace in the "tactical state of play" document in its section on agriculture.
Why this is a myth?
Firstly, this concerns the US position that they would like to confer with their farmers before making any further concessions in these areas. This does not, as suggested by Greenpeace, constitute a corporate takeover.
Secondly, it is not unreasonable that farmers should be consulted regarding specific aspects of trade in agriculture, it should be welcomed. The Commission regularly meets and discusses TTIP issues with groups representing EU farmers' interests in negotiations - this does represent "opening the door to corporate lobbying" as alleged by Greenpeace.
Furthermore, industry is mentioned again, despite not being highlighted by Greenpeace and concerns EU proposals on labelling of spirits, which the EU is seeking to have covered by a specific annex in the agreement. This proposal took into account the interests of the European spirits industry, including the key Scotch Whisky sector, which exports huge amounts of product to the US market. Far from it being a corporate takeover of EU regulatory practices, it simply reflects the importance and vital input that British industry, specifically the spirits sectorin this context, are making in order to improve export opportunities and reduce burdensome red tape on British distilleries and enterprises.
CLAIM 4: TTIP will limit our ability to tackle Climate Change: FALSE
Greenpeace argue that the absence of specific pages dedicated to climate change prevention means that both the EU and US wish to undermine climate prevention measures, once again assuming absence means conspiracy.
Why this is a myth?
As has been repeatedly stated by negotiators, heads of state and government and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, nothing in TTIP will in any way lower standards on either side.
In the case of importation of fossil fuels, the negotiations have not affected the Commission proposals on the implementation of the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive (FQD). The FQD is not part of TTIP, consequently, TTIP discussions will not hinder implementation of the Directive. This remains an internal matter for the Member States of the European Union.