Hundreds of leaked pages from the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) show that the deal could be about to collapse, according to campaigners.
The huge leak – which gives the first full insight into the negotiations – shows that the relationship between Europe and the US are weaker than had been thought and that major divisions remain on some of the agreement’s most central provisions.
The talks have been held almost entirely in secret, and most information that is known in public has come out from unofficial leaks. But the new pages, leaked by Greenpeace, represent the first major look at how the highly confidential talks are progressing.
The leaks could be enough to destabilise the deal completely, according to campaigners who have claimed that the agreement couldn't survive the leaks.
"Now that we can see the actual texts, the EU negotiators have nowhere left to hide," John Hilary, the executive director of War on Want, told The Independent. "The gloves are off, and they know they are in for a proper fight."
They indicate that the US is looking strongly to change regulation in Europe to lessen the protections on the environment, consumer rights and other positions that the EU affords to its citizens. Representatives for each side appear to have found that they have run into “irreconcilable” differences that could undermine the signing of the landmark and highly controversial trade deal, campaigners say.
For instance, the papers show that the US is looking to weaken the EU’s “precautionary principle” that governs how potentially harmful products are sold, Greenpeace says. The US has much weaker regulation that aims to minimise rather than avoid risks, and that same less strict regime could come to the UK and Europe under the deal.
If the EU made further changes to similar regulations, it would have to inform the US and corporations based there, according to the documents. American companies would then be able to have the same input into EU regulation as European ones do.
There are also notable missing parts of the agreement. None of the texts includes any reference to the global effort to cut CO2 emissions agreed in Paris last year, according to Greenpeace, despite a commitment from the European Commission that it would make environmental sustainability a key part of any deal.
Those who support TTIP argue that it represents an important step that will allow the US and EU to work together more closely and that it will support business in both regions. But parts of the deal and the secrecy that surrounds it have led campaigners to argue that it could include dangerous changes to the consumer protections that are guaranteed by the EU.
Poverty, environmental and other campaigners have claimed that the new leak could be enough to undermine those already controversial talks.
"The TTIP negotiations will never survive this leak,” said John Hilary. “The only way that the European Commission has managed to keep the negotiations going so far is through complete secrecy as to the actual details of the deal under negotiation. Now we can see the details for ourselves, and they are truly shocking. This is surely the beginning of the end for this much hated deal."
Other campaigners criticised the fact that the only public information that has emerged about TTIP has come from leaks.
“TTIP is being cooked up behind closed doors because when ordinary people find out about the threat it poses to democracy and consumer protections, they are of course opposed to it,” said Guy Taylor, trade campaigner at Global Justice Now. “It’s no secret that the negotiations have been on increasingly shaky ground. Millions of people across Europe have signed petitions against TTIP, and hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets to call for an end to the negotiations.
"These leaks should be seen as another nail in the coffin of a toxic trade deal that corporate power is unsuccessfully trying to impose on ordinary people and our democracies.”
But campaigners said that the leak of the agreement wouldn't be enough to kill it in itself. But it may be embarrassing enough for national governments that they will pull out.
"EU leaders will now have to assess the political fallout from the leak and decide whether they can still afford to be associated with this toxic deal," said Mr Hilary. "The French and German governments, both of which are preparing for general elections next year, have already signalled that they might pull the plug on TTIP. Today's revelations bring that possibility a great deal closer."
Kevin Smith, a spokesperson for Global Justice Now, told The Independent that those who oppose TTIP would have to continue fighting it if it is to be dropped.
"However ‘on the ropes’ that TTIP might seem to be, it’s critical that concerned citizens and campaign groups don’t rest on their laurels, but instead use this moment to escalate their opposition and make sure that this outrageous corporate power grab is seen off once and for all," he said.
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