After years of speculation and debate, the controversial EU-US trade agreement known as TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) is on the ropes, according to campaign groups.
As detailed in our previous jargon-free roundup on TTIP, much of the criticism has been regarding the strict confidentiality surrounding its contents. Opponents have long-maintained that the public have a right to know the finer details of what has been discussed on our behalf by negotiators behind closed doors.
Late last week many of these details were exposed by Greenpeace as a result of a shock leak. The 248 pages anonymously handed to the environmental group cover a mere 13 of the document’s full 17 chapters on TTIP’s current status, exposing within “irreconcilable” differences between the EU and the US.
The documents outline disputes over regulation on issues like environmental protection, public health and consumers rights. The biggest headlines centre around the much maligned ‘Investor State Dispute Settlements’, which could allow corporations to sue governments in private courts if their policies produce “technical barriers to trade”.
The European Commission has repeatedly denied allegations that standards will deplete as a result of the deal, but trust in these claims has further diminished following the leak.
“All the assurances the European Commission give about not lowering standards do not stand up to scrutiny,” said Gabriel Siles-Brügge a politics lecturer at the University of Manchester who wrote a book about TTIP.
Following the leaks, France’s President Hollande publicly announced that he will not sign TTIP in its current form. Germany’s economy minister Sigmar Gabriel has also spoken publicly of TTIP collapsing, and has pointed the finger at the US refusing to make concessions as the cause. All 28 EU member states and the European parliament will have to sign up to the deal before it comes into force.
John Hilary, Executive Director of campaigning group War on Want wrote (perhaps a tad optimistically):
“Today marks the end of TTIP. Total secrecy was the only way the European Commission could keep the European people from learning the truth about these appalling negotiations, and now the cat is out of the bag.“
David Cameron has defended “the trade deal that could add tens of billions to our economy and generate jobs” by opening the US to more trade from EU companies as well as vice-versa.
“There are plenty of reasons that people don’t want to see trade expanded, I think they should be honest about it and say they don’t like trade deals,” the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons last week.
Nonetheless, this response will likely do very little to calm protestors who merely see the deal as a way for huge American businesses to throw their weight around and bypass European legislation. Neither will declarations such as this from the US President (albeit referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership rather than TTIP):
There are also political challenges in the US affecting the process, as President Obama lost a key Senate vote that would have given him a freer hand to negotiate. Without that authority, Obama is having to take positions with one eye on how Congress, in an election year, will respond.
The full leaked documents are available here.
We’ll have more on the deal as the story develops. In the meantime, check out our previous blog on how TTIP would affect your business, and let us know in the comments below if you’ve got something to say or have changed your mind on it.