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  • German environment agency suggests list to allay concerns about TTIP

    Germany’s environment agency UBA has expressed serious concern that the EU’s position on the emerging Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal could weaken environmental protection standards in Europe. The UBA is also suggesting that any TTIP agreement should include a list of areas where cooperation on environmental standards would benefit both America and Europe.

    The emerging TTIP agreement is intended to promote increased trade between the EU and US, but environmental, consumer and health groups are worried that it will seriously dilute the ability of European governments to protect the environment and defend state-provided services in cases where the interests of American companies are threatened. The Commission has given assurances that governments’ powers over environment protection and national services will not be affected, but the UBA’s paper suggests the concerns are still valid.

    The UBA warns that the EU is threatening to allow a shift away from the precautionary principle to one that would require an environmental risk to be explicitly proven before any regulation could take place. It says Europe’s current proposals would breach the democratic principles at the heart of the EU by giving US companies the right to information about EU legislation before the European Parliament or NGOs get to hear about it. It is also worried that plans to take American trade and investment interests into consideration on environmental impact assessments could make environmental regulation more difficult.

    The UBA recommends a ‘positive list’ of areas where regulating environmental activity can provide benefits on both sides of the Atlantic, and says the list should reflect ambitious environmental and climate protection goals. It also suggests there are benefits to be gained from eliminating subsidies that promote the use of environmentally damaging products and practices.

    NGOs’ concerns over TTIP have been further heightened by the revelation that the US trade representative and TTIP negotiator Michael Froman (pictured with European trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström) had raised the issue of the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive implementation on several occasions, including in the context of TTIP. The weak option recently chosen by the European Commission to implement the FQD appears to also be the preferred US option, according to an email from the Commission’s energy directorate obtained through an access to documents request. This has raised concerns that TTIP is already influencing EU policy, even while it is still being negotiated.