Greenpeace Leaks Secret Pro-Corporate Trade Agreement
Jorgo Riss of Greenpeace says leaked TTIP documents show a huge transfer of power from people to big business and negotiators consulting with the corporate sector
SHARMINI PERIES, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
On Monday Greenpeace Netherlands released secret TTIP negotiation documents. Greenpeace says that the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership, a trade deal between Europe and the United States, would considerably lower food safety and environmental standards. On the website, ttipleaks.org, it states that they have leaked the document to provide much-needed transparency and trigger an informed debate on the treaty. This treaty is threatening to have far-reaching implications for the environment and the lives of more than 800 million citizens in the EU and the US.
Greenpeace not only held a press conference on Monday to expose the negotiations, but also projected experts from the leaked TTIP documents on the German parliament building. They also set up a glass box reading room in front of the iconic Brandenburger Gate where the public could read the TTIP papers. Negotiations have been notoriously done in secret, behind closed doors, as they have with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
With us to discuss the leaked document and why we should be concerned is Jorgo Riss. He’s the Greenpeace EU director. He is joining us from Brussels. Jorgo, so good to have you with us today.
JORGO RISS: Hello, Sharmini. I’m glad to be with you.
PERIES: Jorgo, as exciting as the leaks have been, and what’s contained in them, and before we get into that, let’s talking about the process you underwent in terms of getting the documents and leaking them and putting it up on this new site.
RISS: Well, the documents of the TGIP treaty are, these negotiations have been held in very high secrecy between the European Union and the United States. Only very few people have access to the documents, and there is, on the US side, nothing published. On the EU side there has been a lot of pressure from civil society groups in 2013 when the negotiations initially started, and also the European ombudsman ruled that the European Commission, which is leading the negotiations on the European side on behalf of all the 28 member states of the European Union, that the European Commission negotiators must make the EU negotiating positions public. So, on the EU side we’ve had, after pressure for now over a year, some information about what the EU is asking for in this treaty, but from the US side there was complete secrecy.
So, up until now, neither in the US nor in Europe did anybody have a full picture of what the two sides want to get out of this treaty, and the TTIP treaty is huge. It is, if you compare it with the TPP, a similar type of arrangement, but of course the economic power of the United States and Europe together is significantly bigger.
This is the world’s two biggest economies. If they formed one economic area that would clearly dominate investment and trade globally, so there is a lot of attention on what rules will be set in this treaty, and so I’m telling you all this to say that the secrecy, first of all, that there was nothing known about the US position and therefore, even though there was some information about the EU position, it was difficult for anybody to get a picture of what’s really happening here, and within the EU, though, it was also kept, the real treaty text, not the EU position but the text which includes both sides of the negotiation, that was only accessible to some parliamentarians in guarded reading rooms which they were able to enter.
They had to leave their mobile phones outside. They were not able to bring in any assistant, any lawyer who would actually help them understand the text, the text, of course only in English. In the European Union most people do not speak English but other languages, so it was extremely difficult, even for parliamentarians involved in trade committees to follow this, and the general public, people like you and me, had no access at all, neither in the states nor here in Europe.
so, in that context, getting these documents was really a challenge, and we were approached by a person who had been able to have access to these documents and who wanted to stimulate, who wanted to get them out in order to create an informed public debate. And many people have been criticizing TTIP from the start. Many people have been praising TTIP from the beginning of the negotiations. On either side there was a lot of speculation and very little fact that you could really discuss, so getting the documents out was important to us.
You’re asking me what did we then actually do once we had the documents? It was not only that the few people who have access and the rooms which they can have access to are guarded and all that. It’s also that there was a coding system, as far as we could see, so that each time you log in to the system in order to access the documents they would show up on your screen in a slightly different format, which would later allow them, if, you know, if you took a copy or if you printed them and the negotiating parties would get hold of your leak, so to speak, it would allow them to run that through a computer and check at what time, where, somebody had accessed the system.
So we had to retype the whole 250 pages that we had received and we had to make sure that in retyping them we didn’t accidentally, you know, put in a typing error. Then we had to get it certified, where we worked with a group of renowned investigative journalists. They certified that the–They were, next to us, the only ones who saw the original and they certified that our retyped version and the original corresponded, and once we got that certification we destroyed the original so that nobody can ever force us to hand it out and to use it in order to trace [inaud.] back to the source.
PERIES: Excellent work, and these are the kinds of things that normally journalists unravel, but these days journalism has been cut back to the point that, particularly when it comes to environmental coverage, there’s very few journalists out there who can do this kind of important investigative work, so I thank Greenpeace for doing so.
Now, once we have got the content of these documents, obviously we are, and people are concerned about why it is so secret. So, Jorgo, what’s contained in them that concerns you the most?
RISS: Well, the TTIP, so these documents, that reflects now the middle game of the negotiations, which means both sides have by and large put on the table what they want to have in the final outcome, and President Obama, as well as the EU leaders, have said that by the end of this year they would like to conclude the treaty, so that’s, what we have now here in the league is pretty much sort of 70 percent of the material from which they will then come to the final treaty, so it gives us a pretty clear picture of what’s in it and what’s not in it.
First of all, we’re extremely concerned that there is, in the TTIP treaty, which the public, in the spin [inaud.] that the governments give us, they say this is about making sure that seat belts for cars in Europe don’t have different standards than in the USA so that a car manufacturer can use the same seat belts on both sides of the Atlantic. I mean, nobody has a problem with that. But when you look at the text, it’s actually, that’s the smallest part of it all.
The core of the text is about regulatory cooperation or regulatory harmonization, and what’s behind that, when you read that consolidated chapter, that chapter which includes the proposals of the United States and of the EU, you see that they are really about to, the United States is particularly pushing that the EU change the way it currently operates in order to adopt regulations, and regulations can here encompass food safety regulations, regulations for environmental protection, as well as regulations on certain industry sectors.
What the US is demanding is that the EU goes much closer to the system that is already today present in the United States, mainly a wide opening of the doors to industry lobby, an early involvement of industry lobbies in the regulatory process and putting up all kinds of hurdles to basically make it difficult for a regulator to act against the interests of powerful economic players, and that is extremely worrying. It would basically allow, they say citizens and economic operators, but that’s the spin.
If you cut through that you that it’s made for the lobbies. It would allow US companies to directly lobby on EU standards. THat’s the concern that the Europeans have, that they don’t want existing European standards, which are higher in some cases than in the United States, to be lowered through such lobbying. And, in general, it would create an environment where the future development, both in the United States and in Europe, is much more driven by lobbies than it is today.
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