Ag Policy Blog

Greenpeace Releases Documents on U.S.-EU Trade Talks

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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The group Greenpeace has released nearly 250 pages of text the group maintains come from negotiations from the U.S. and European Union on the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, (T-TIP). In releasing the documents, the group declared the documents confirm every fear Greenpeace has about trade agreements.

The group noted the chapter on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (essentially ground rules for safety) included language on "products of modern technology." The same chapter also talked about a risk-based approach to science and regulations. Greenpeace declared that would end Europe's coveted precautionary principle.

It does seem as though Greenpeace was shocked that U.S. negotiators would seek greater market access for biotechnology. That position has been widely known since the beginning of the talks. The documents do detail rules for regulatory approval that would eliminate some of the politics biotech crops and commodities now face in Europe.

The leaked documents appear to have come from EU negotiators as they seem to be written from a European perspective on the talks. The documents summarize the "tactical state of play" between the U.S. and the EU following talks in Brussels back in February. At that time, negotiators agreed to pick up the pace of their discussions.

Officials on both sides of the Atlantic said Tuesday the document leak doesn't reflect a final document or even everything going on with the talks. Still, some groups opposed to T-TIP characterized the leak as defining a possible end to the trade pact and pointed to language in the documents claiming that T-TIP amounts to a corporate takeover. http://dld.bz/…

In the wake of the leak, some European politicians felt the need to defend the precautionary principle and make it clear that they were not going to change standards for genetically modified crops because of T-TIP. http://dld.bz/…

A spokesman from the U.S. Trade Representative's Office stated that the office would not comment on the validity of the leaks, but interpretations of the documents are misleading at best and flat-out wrong at worst.

The USTR statement added, "From the outset of trade negotiations with the EU, we have been clear that our goal is for T-TIP to promote economic growth, boost jobs, increase public participation and transparency in regulatory processes, and reflect our shared transatlantic values. U.S. negotiating objectives are based on extensive consultations with businesses, labor unions, environmental organizations, academics, the U.S Congress, state and local governments, and the public. T-TIP will preserve, not undermine, our strong consumer, health, environmental standards, and position the U.S. and the EU to work together to push standards higher around the world. We look forward to having a fact-based discussion about what T-TIP seeks and does not seek to achieve."

T-TIP is somewhat in trouble due to U.S. presidential politics. President Barack Obama and his team certainly back the deal and would like to get it done. But the top presidential contenders -- Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump -- have found that the crowds like anti-trade rhetoric. That likely means any deal with Europe would undergo new negotiations starting sometime next year once a new administration gets its feet on the ground. Then there is the inevitable role of Congress. The documents leaked by Greenpeace note some leeriness by EU negotiators that Congress could later try to change provisions after the two sides strike a deal.

The documents do show how each side sought to position itself. For instance, the U.S. wants to bring down some tariffs on certain chemicals where the EU was holding the line. The documented noted U.S. negotiators were going to have to consult with industry on these matters. This was one area Greenpeace seized upon in citing corporate influence over the talks.

Some areas of the documents offered details on the quid pro quo of trade talks. The EU wants to change some agreements on mechanical devices and electrical appliances. The U.S. showed interest, but wasn't ready to change its position unless the EU showed some progress on agricultural tariffs.

On pesticides, the EU and U.S. have discussed common approaches and the need to share scientific information and data sources as well as respective regulatory tools. The two sides agreed to keep advancing those talks.

Under the tariff document from last November, tariffs would be liberalized on as much as 97% of products, of which 87.5% of products would see immediate duty elimination. A big sticking point is the tariff on EU export of automobiles. From the EU perspective, roughly 8.9% of all EU exports still had not seen a concession from the U.S. on tariff lines, again mainly because of cars, buses and trucks.

For agriculture, it appears both sides have some areas where they want at some tariff lines continue. The EU wants to maintain tariff lines on beef, pork and poultry, dairy, vegetables, fruit, rice, corn flour, flakes and oil, starch, poultry and pork meat preparations, sugar, ethyl alcohol and rum.

The documents noted the U.S. has some sensitivity regarding dairy, sugar and tobacco. Dairy import assessments seemed to be a sticking point. The U.S. wants to maintain tariff lines on the bulk of dairy products, including cheese, as well as some beef products, citrus, olives and olive oil, animal feed, wine, sparkling wine, refined sugar, raw tobacco, chocolate, food preparation products and some miscellaneous items.

Some agricultural products are also in the mix of tariffs that would have a seven-year phase out. At the end, the analysis in the tariff document shows agricultural goods would be liberalized on 86.4% of EU products and 85% of U.S. products.

Greenpeace also pointed out the trade talks make no mention of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as detailed in the Paris climate agreement signed by both the U.S. and every European country. The EU also appeared more interested in pushing language on sustainable development and wants an "ambitious text" in that regard over labor standards and the environment. The U.S. has tabled these proposals in the past and U.S. negotiators don't want to discuss at least some elements being championed by the EU, including areas dealing with biodiversity.

On pesticides, the EU and U.S. have discussed common approaches and the need to share scientific information and data sources as well as respective regulatory tools. The two sides agreed to keep advancing those talks.

In other areas, EU negotiators have a strong interest in getting involved in bidding on U.S. government projects and procurement. There also are detailed reports regarding the state of talks in areas such as telecommunications, rules on financial services, and e-commerce, just to mention a few.

Also, for several issues the U.S. offered text from the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a basis to deal with different topics.

Wine, which is likely procured during such laborious talks, is a big deal in the talks. The U.S. and EU apparently have some issues there. In an area where the EU is playing its "geographical indicator" card, the EU wants to prevent U.S. wine producers from using 17 specific names for wine used in Europe. Those names were laid out in a 2006 agreement between the EU and U.S. such as Burgundy, Chablis, Champagne, Chianti, Claret, Haut Sauterne, Hock, Madeira, Malaga, Marsala, Moselle, Port, Retsina, Rhine, Sunterne, Sherry and Tokay.

Some for those wine names, but not all, are used by U.S. winemakers domestically.

The U.S., according to the leaked text, oppose the EU position, but the EU negotiators noted that if the issue wasn't resolved it would have to be kicked up to the political level.

While the negotiators now have a few more headaches due to the document release, I might offer my own minor amendment to the T-TIP text. Perhaps both sides could agree to the immediate elimination of 97% of all acronyms used by trade negotiators. It would make reading leaked documents a little easier.

The various chapters T-TIP posted by Greenpeace can be found at https://ttip-leaks.org

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