EU trade chief Cecilia Malmström has brushed aside media reports that US trade negotiators are attempting to undermine EU health and environmental protection laws, as "a storm in a teacup".
In an unexpected step, the Swede, who oversees the EU's negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal with the US, moved swiftly to quell concerns raised by environmental activists Greenpeace, following the leaking of around 250 pages of the most recent TTIP negotiating documents.
In a statement, posted on her commission blog site, Malmström contests Greenpeace's claims that the US is attempting to undermine the EU's democratic processes by weakening its tough environmental and health laws.
Several news outlets including the Guardian newspaper were given the documents ahead of today's unveiling by Greenpeace, with the British daily arguing that the texts suggest that the TTIP talks "face a serious impasse with 'irreconcilable' differences in some areas".
"As there seems to be quite a number of misconceptions floating around, a few things might be worth pointing out," said Malmström.
"Many media outlets are reporting this morning about supposed leaks from our negotiations with the United States on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)," she said, adding, "It is only normal that both parties in a negotiation want to achieve as many of their own objectives as possible. That does not mean that the other side gives in to those demands."
"That does not mean that the parties will meet halfway. In areas where we are too far apart in a negotiation, we simply will not agree. In that sense, many of today's alarmist headlines are a storm in a teacup."
In a statement earlier today (Monday) Greenpeace EU director Jorgo Riss said the leaked documents, "confirmed what we have been saying for a long time, [that] TTIP would put corporations at the centre of policymaking, to the detriment of environment and public health."
However Malmström responded saying, "It begs to be said, again and again: No EU trade agreement will ever lower our level of protection of consumers, or food safety, or of the environment. Trade agreements will not change our laws on GMOs, or how to produce safe beef, or how to protect the environment."
Any EU trade deal she promised "can only change regulation by making it stronger".
"We might agree with a partner that rules on the safety of medicines would be tougher than before, for example, but never weaker. No trade deal will limit our ability to make new rules to protect our citizens or environment in the future. I am simply not in the business of lowering standards."
The controversy surrounding the TTIP discussions follows recent comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called for the long-running negotiations to be speeded up.
Greenpeace will hold a media briefing today at 2.30 in Brussels, to answer questions on the leaked documents.