A trade deal between the United States and the European Union should be scrapped, environmental group Greenpeace said Monday after publishing confidential documents it says are proof of US efforts to circumvent the bloc's consumer protections.
Greenpeace gave a press conference shortly after uploading 248 pages of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) documents that date back to April and detail how the US is pressuring the bloc to buy more of its agricultural products.
The negotiations are being held behind closed doors "with the intention of creating a powerful battering ram that can eliminate even the most firmly established climate and consumer protections," Juergen Knirsch, a trade expert at Greenpeace, said at Berlin's annual IT conference re:publica.
The European Commission - which is leading the negotiations - should admit that it did not adequately inform the public about the terms of the deal and that it should "press the restart button" because the current deal is "beyond redemption," he added.
Greenpeace says that the deal would strike at consumer protections that block genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and hormone-treated meat by doing away with the EU's precautionary principle, which obliges regulatory caution when there is scientific doubt over a product's suitability for human consumption.
The documents, initially shared with media outlets including Germany's Sueddeutsche newspaper and broadcasters WDR and NDR, show that Washington threatened to block efforts to ease exports of European cars if Europe does not agree to allow the sale of more US agricultural products.
Several outlets also reported that big business has been heavily involved in drafting the agreement, citing its previewing of the documents.
Since the start of the talks, activists have called for the release of all TTIP texts. But officials on both sides of the Atlantic have stressed the importance of keeping the negotiations secret in order to strike the best deal possible.
Negotiators from the United States and the EU said after talks in New York on Friday that they remain hopeful of completing the TTIP trade agreement this year despite the US elections and a British vote on whether to stay in the EU.
TTIP has faced strong opposition from the public both in Europe and the US, where anti-free-trade rhetoric has gained prominence among candidates in both main political parties ahead of November elections.
Once finalized, TTIP would create the world's largest free trade area with 800 million people. The final deal will require approval from European Parliament and the governments of the bloc's member states.
US President Barack Obama has made trade a key item on his agenda for his remaining months in office and pushed for the deal in Germany last week while attending an international trade show in Hanover alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.