The environmental group Greenpeace on Monday released secret documents it had obtained detailing negotiations between the United States and Europe on the new free-trade agreement, known as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.
Among the biggest findings: The documents show that the United States has threatened to keep car import tariffs in place unless Europe agrees to ease restrictions on U.S. agricultural products, German newspaper the Süddeutsche Zeitung and state broadcasters WDR and NDR reported, citing parts of the papers.
The German media outlets received the documents in advance from Greenpeace, adding that experts had confirmed the documents’ authenticity.
The United States “have urgently made clear that progress on the aspect of car parts would only be possible if the European Union moved on the matter of agricultural import duties,” Süddeutsche Zeitung cited from the documents.
The European Union’s trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, played down the documents’ release, in a blog post arguing “it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are areas where the E.U. and the U.S. have different views.”
“It shouldn't come as a surprise that there are areas where the E.U. and the U.S. have different views."”
The documents refer to draft texts proposed last month, before the 13th round of negotiations started on April 25 in New York, Greenpeace said. The environmental group, which has been highly critical of the trade deal, said it released the documents to accommodate demands for transparency and to provoke discussion.
The documents, Greenpeace argued, revealed several concerns related to the environment and consumers, for instance the lack of any reference to climate protection, the group said. They called for a halt to the negotiations.
“These documents make clear the scale and scope of the trade citizens of the United States and the European Union are being asked to make in pursuit of corporate profits. It is time for the negotiations to stop, and the debate to begin,” said Sylvia Borren, executive director of Greenpeace Netherlands, which officially released the documents.
The documents also suggest the Europeans have shown more interest in concluding the trade agreement, making more proposals and offering more compromises than the Americans, according to French newspaper Le Monde, which also cited the Greenpeace-leaked documents.
Ms. Malmström of the European Commission argued the E.U. would hold firm in the talks,. Just because the United States had proposed something in the talks doesn’t mean the European Union will agree to it. She also noted that many of Europe’s positions in particular are well known, as the E.U. negotiators have been more forthcoming in releasing their draft texts and stances during the talks.
“In that sense, many of today’s alarmist headlines are a storm in a teacup,” she said.
The new trade agreement, which is still in the negotiating phase, aims to boost trade between the two regions by lowering import tariffs and setting joint standards on a range of products and services.
In Europe, however, and particularly in Germany, some citizens and politicians have grown skeptical of the deal, fearing it may lower standards on the environment, labor protection and food production and give more power to large corporations. Both the E.U. and U.S. negotiators sharply deny those charges.
“No trade deal will limit our ability to make new rules to protect our citizens or environment in the future,” Ms. Malmström said. “I am simply not in the business of lowering standards.”
Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both spoke in favor of the trade deal when they met at the Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial trade fair in north central Germany.
Both Ms. Merkel and Mr. Obama warned that the window for agreeing to a trans-Atlantic free-trade pact could close by the end of this year, when the United States elects a successor to Mr. Obama.
Germany’s vice chancellor and the country’s economics and energy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, last week critized the U.S. position for sticking to its “buy America” idea.
“If the Americans cling to this position, we won’t need a free trade agreement, and TTIP will fail,” Mr. Gabriel told Handelsblatt in an interview.
The skepticism surrounding TTIP runs deep in Germany and even the federal government in Berlin has doubts that the substance of an agreement can be hammered out by the end of this year before Mr. Obama leaves office.
Gilbert Kreijger is an editor with Handelsblatt Global Edition in Berlin, covering companies and markets. Christopher Cermak of Handelsblatt Global Edition contributed to this story. To contact the author: email@example.com