04 May 2016

I Know That It's Not Good to See the Sausage Made, but We Should Know When It Is a Sh%$ Sandwich

Greenpeace has published leaked documents detailing the negotiations between the US and EU over the TTIP, and it is worse than previously thought:
Bernd Lange, the chairman of the European Parliament's important trade committee, has indicated that he now expects the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations will probably fail, following a major leak of confidential documents from the talks.

Greenpeace Netherlands has released half of the entire TTIP draft text as of April 2016, prior to the start of the 13th round of TTIP negotiations between the EU and the US, which reveal US demands in detail for the first time.

Although the EU has improved transparency recently, and routinely publishes its offers for each TTIP chapter, the US has consistently refused to do so. Even MEPs and MPs have faced extreme restrictions on what they are allowed to look at, copy, or even say when it comes to the US position. The new leak by an unknown whistleblower represents a major blow to US attempts to keep its negotiating demands confidential, and provides important information to the both the EU and US public for the first time.


As Ars noted last September, in the face of massive public concerns about ISDS, the European Commission is proposing a modified approach, the Investment Court System (ICS), which it claims addresses the problems of ISDS. However, even though the ICS idea was formally presented to the US last year, one of the TTIP leaks shows that it was not even discussed during the 12th round, something that the European Commission's public report on the negotiations omitted to mention. This confirms earlier indications that the US is not interested in ICS, and will insist on including standard ISDS in TTIP, regardless of EU worries.

A leaked chapter on "Regulatory coherence, transparency and other good regulatory practices" indicates that the US wants all regulations, even those concerning health and safety or environmental issues, to be judged by the yardstick of their effects on trade: "When developing a regulation, a regulatory authority of a Party shall evaluate any information provided in comments by the other Party or a person of the other Party regarding the potential trade effects of the regulation that it receives during the comment period."

n practice, this means that companies will be able to challenge any new EU and US regulations that might have an adverse effect on their profits, as is often the case when new environment regulations are brought in. It is likely to make it much harder to strengthen laws that might disadvantage business but protect public health and safety.


The key sentence comes in the particularly sensitive document entitled "Tactical State of Play of the TTIP Negotiations." This is essentially the European Commision's frank evaluation of where things stand in the TTIP talks. Here's what it has to say on the US demand: "progress on motor vehicle-related parts would only be possible if the EU showed progress in the discussion on agricultural tariffs." In other words, if the EU doesn't open up its markets to agricultural products from the US—which means things like beef treated with hormones, and maybe even chlorine chickens—there will be no improved access for EU car manufacturers.


It is also concerned that the EU's "precautionary principle," which requires that products should be shown to be safe before they can be put on the market is being replaced by the US "risk-based" approach, which allows products to be sold until it is proved that they are dangerous.


Finally, and perhaps most importantly, public support for TTIP was already plummeting, even before this leak appeared. It seems unlikely that the information it reveals about US demands will assuage any European fears.
Looking at the positions that have been taken by  the US in these negotiations, I can only say that, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

The worst parts of the trade deals that the US have negotiated over the past few decades is not that reality, and our partners, require compromises.

The worst parts of the trade deals that the US have negotiated over the past few decades come from a foreign trade establishment who follows the most extreme and destructive philosophy.

Here is hoping that the free market market mousketeers who have been driving foreign trade deals get a job flipping burgers, because their death toll is beginning to rival that of Josef Stalin.


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