A newly leaked TTIP draft plays into fears that the the free trade deal will force Europe to lower its regulatory standards – sparking renewed worry for climate protection and development of renewable energy.
A controversial free trade deal currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States has been thrown into further uncertainty after leaked documents obtained by campaign groups appeared to show an intention to weaken European environmental standards.
The latest draft version of the chapter on energy and raw materials in the deal, known as TTIP, uses language that suggests the EU would need to adopt a more hands-off regulatory approach when it comes to issues including the environment, social protection and social rights.
This has been the central fear of anti-TTIP campaigners: a free trade deal that would force both sides to the lowest common denominator of government action.
The draft, obtained by Greenpeace, states that the two sides should “foster industry self-regulation,” including for climate policies such as energy efficiency requirements “where such self-regulation is likely to deliver the policy objectives faster or in a less costly manner than mandatory requirements.”
Another section of the text says that energy decisions should be taken “on commercial terms that are reasonable, transparent and non-discriminatory, including as between types of energy.”
Campaigners say this flies in the face of EU policy thus far, which has promoted climate-friendly energy sources such as solar and wind, including through policies such as the feed-in tariff.
“Should this proposal become part of the free trade pact, Germany’s shift to renewable energy is in mortal danger,” said Greenpeace spokesman Christoph Lieven.
Race to the bottom
Claude Turmes, a Green member of the European Parliament from Luxembourg, says the language used in the draft shows that TTIP would lead to a redefinition of the EU’s regulatory ambition – along American lines.
“This leak has again reinforced the widespread fear that the EU-US TTIP negotiations are being used to create a framework for corporations to sidestep EU rules on health, consumer protection and the environment,” he told DW.
“Democratically-decided EU rules and standards are non-negotiable, and the commission needs to defend the European interest and make this clear,” Turmes continued.
Greenpeace has long insisted that the free trade deal will weaken EU environmental standards. In May the group released 250 pages of leaked documents, which it said shows the agreement will eliminate the EU’s “precautionary principle.”
This concept states that a substance or activity should be banned unless it can be proven safe.
The US operates under a different legislative principle, which says that something should be allowed unless it can be proven to pose a risk.
The European Commission did not reply to a request for comment.
Self-regulation ‘not great’
Jack Hunter, who is with the CoolProducts campaign that fights for EU energy-efficient products, says the EU experience has shown the voluntary industry agreements to combat climate change favored in America do not work.
“We tried voluntary agreements, and they are not great,” he told DW. “That’s the view of prominent manufacturers, not just us,” Hunter added.
“The fact is: they are not quicker, not cheaper, and they do a bad job delivering a level playing field and actual energy efficiency,” Hunter said. “In a nutshell, there’s nothing like enforceable standards.”
“If voluntary agreements become the norm, we’re in for a flood of energy-guzzling products, higher energy bills and climate trouble,” he concluded.
Talks continue this week
A fourteenth round of talks between the EU and US began today (11.07.2016) in Brussels. During the talks, which will last through the week, the EU is expected to discuss the automotive, cosmetics, textiles, chemicals and engineering sectors.
TTIP would become the world’s largest free trade area, covering 800 million people. Its proponents say liberalized trade would boost growth on both continents and lead to more jobs in Europe. But critics say it will potentially harm to environmental, labor and social standards.
Both the US and EU are aiming to have a full draft agreement ready by September, so that negotiations can be concluded before US President Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017.
Both Obama and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reaffirmed their commitment to the deal during a NATO summit in Poland on Friday.