Commentary. The leaked documents from the Europe-America free trade deal show the sides are far from an accord as multinationals push for more power.

Greenpeace TTIP leaks: Citizens bear all the risks but have no say

It took an international organization like Greenpeace to pierce the silence surrounding a faltering agreement between Europe, the United States and multinational corporations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

Greenpeace has published 248 pages of documents online that reveal details of the negotiating stages, decisions that — if and when they are ever finalized — would impact the lives of almost 1 billion people and destroy many of the gains made in labor rights, welfare and environmental protection. Supporters of the TTIP talk of “liberalizing” the international markets and the need to keep up with the times. They paint those who disagree as fighting the inevitable currents of history.

But this supposed attempt to “harmonize” international markets for the good of the citizens is discussed in secret, with no possibility for civil society to make its opinions heard. Nevertheless, they will be expected to ratify, though their representatives in the legislature, these decisions made by others. Moreover, contrary to the propaganda, the U.S. and E.U. are not close to an agreement, especially on key issues. And who knows that the leaks will not provide the fatal snag that breaks down the talks.

On May 7 in Rome, there will be a national demonstration against the TTIP. For those who take to the streets, the Greenpeace leaks confirm many of their arguments against the trade deal. The need to disclose documents like this, to become aware of the topics under discussion, establishes just how peculiar this treaty is: That is, the decisions are being made in complete privacy.

The leak reveals that while civil society and citizens are affected by the negotiations, they are kept in the dark while multinationals are not only kept in full knowledge of the discussions but have a voice in the debate. Many shady points of the agreement are well known and jeopardize several sectors: workers’ rights, welfare and the environment. More broadly, the end agreement will likely favor multinationals over national laws in the procedure for settling disputes.

The documents published by Greenpeace highlight four risks if the deal goes through (although the positions, in fact, are not as close as the pro-TTIP propagandists would have us believe): It would remove environmental protections that allow states to regulate commerce “to protect the life or health of humans, animals or plants” or for “conservation of exhaustible natural resources”; there is no reference to climate protection; it would weaken the “precautionary principle” over the introduction of dangerous substances, such as chemicals; and it would open the door to the interference of industry and multinationals.

“It’s time to shed light on the TTIP,” said Federica Ferrario of Greenpeace Italy. “With these secret negotiations we risk losing advances gained, at great sacrifice to environmental protection and public health.”

E.U. Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström on her blog dismissed the leaks as “a storm in a teacup,” arguing that “it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are areas where the E.U. and the U.S. have different views” and that the “consolidated text” in the leaks is not a final draft of the agreement. She adds that the E.U. proposal “includes references to the precautionary principle.”

But according to Greenpeace, the United States has other plans: “The U.S. wants the E.U. to replace the E.U.’s hazard approach with ‘risk management,’ disregarding the precautionary principle, which is enshrined in the E.U. Treaty but is never mentioned in the consolidated text.”

It’s true these are not definitive texts, but they indicate a very strong intention on the part of the U.S. and multinationals regarding their “advantages” to achieving this type of arrangement.