EU-US trade deal will ensure European 'dependence on fossil fuels'
European citizens need to be 'fully informed' about what is being 'traded away' in TTIP negotiations, writes Natacha Cingotti.
As the latest round of trade negotiations between the EU and the US begins next week in Brussels, citizens and civil society are asking who's really driving these trade talks, and where exactly they're going.
The transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) is being touted as the biggest bilateral trade agreement in history. It will impact upon many aspects of life for citizens in Europe and the US. Yet despite the European commission's 'open-door' policy, transparency around the trade negotiations is almost non-existent. Anyone not on the inside of the negotiations is reliant on leaks and freedom of information requests to get any idea of what is being negotiated.
"Leaks offer a glimpse through the keyhole into the negotiations and show a largely industry-dominated discussion where the profits of powerful multinationals are placed ahead of the environment and safeguards for citizens"
These leaks offer a glimpse through the keyhole into the negotiations and show a largely industry-dominated discussion where the profits of powerful multinationals are placed ahead of the environment and safeguards for citizens.
A leaked European Union document published last week exposes the dangerous direction the trade deal is taking when it comes to raw material and energy. Proposed changes to US energy policy could allow for increased exports of oil and gas to the EU.
The EU is seeking a "legally binding commitment" that would alter the current US process for granting export licences for natural gas and crude oil. This would lock-in European dependence on fossil fuel imports and be a disaster for the climate.
Combined with a proposed provision known as 'investor-state dispute settlement' (ISDS) that gives excessive rights to companies to undermine democratically-agreed safeguards that protect people and the environment, the deal is a coup for big polluters.
The threat of being sued under this chapter of the treaty would limit the likelihood of national and local decision-makers setting new energy policies, in particular for dangerous technologies such as fracking. This would be a boon for corporate polluters, while communities and the environment will be the ones to suffer.
Oil and gas companies are already using similar mechanisms. Under the North American free trade agreement, the company Lone Pine Resources is suing Canada for €175m in compensation, after the province of Québec introduced a precautionary moratorium on fracking.
No wonder big corporations are forcing their way into the negotiations. A list of meetings released following a freedom of information request shows that between 1 July 2013 and 19 February 2014, three quarters of external stakeholder meetings with DG trade – where EU trade negotiators sit – were with industry lobby groups.
"The continued secrecy and recent revelations on the direction of the talks only feeds growing distrust and frustration from citizens at the TTIP process"
The continued secrecy and recent revelations on the direction of the talks only feeds growing distrust and frustration from citizens at the TTIP process. Almost 20,000 citizens have called for the controversial ISDS mechanism to be removed from the negotiating table.
The European commission must listen. It also needs to publish the negotiating mandate, all documents submitted by the European Union during the negotiations, and the negotiating texts themselves. The consequences of this deal for citizens and the environment are too far-reaching for citizens not to be fully informed about what is potentially being traded away.
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