‘Green Deal diplomacy’: the risks of trading with Trump

It has been less that two months since the launch of the European Green Deal. Khaled Diab asks whether the EU’s Trade Commissioner ever got that memo.

A trade deal with the United States threatens to open the floodgates for harmful industrial agriculture products coming to the EU. Yet Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan hopes that giving ground to Donald Trump here could help to protect the European car industry from the threat of extra tariffs.

Concerned citizens and environmental groups say protecting public health, animal welfare and the climate and environment must come first.

In response to recent talks between the EU and US, over 100 civil society organisations, including the EEB, have signed a letter to EU leaders and national parliamentarians, objecting to the fact that Hogan lacks a clear mandate.

The letter highlights the negative implications for consumers, human health, animal welfare and climate change of the ideas being floated by the Trade Commissioner. 

Hogan has said he would leverage trade negotiations to advance sustainability practices, and yet he appears to be doing the exact opposite of “Green Deal diplomacy”.

Here’s what real Green Deal diplomacy could look like, if the Commission is serious about wanting to address the climate emergency: demand that US agriculture become more sustainable and reverse the recent flood of fracked and liquified gas coming from the US to the EU, based on actual measurements of the methane emissions embedded in this trade.

Hogan argues that what he is negotiating is not a ‘TTIP 2.0’ – a new version of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which mobilised millions of concerned citizens all over Europe. Yet as some of major sticking points are again under discussion, suspicions are rising that a new TTIP is being sneaked in through the back door.

Fluttering in the trade winds

Shifting position with the wind also doesn’t help. In January, the Commissioner was signalling compromise with the US, yet when he appeared before the European Parliament Committee on International Trade on Wednesday 19 February, he reassured its members that the bloc’s rules on pesticides, pathogens and maximum residue levels would “not be changed or in any way downgraded”. Several members of the committee raised concerns about all the ambiguity.

The EU’s previous strong and unequivocal position around commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change as a prerequisite for any trade deal has softened on Trade Commissioner Hogan’s watch. The European Green Deal now only requires adherence to the Paris Agreement for “comprehensive agreements”, which the deal with the US is not.  The US has formally initiated its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. This comes into effect on 4 November 2020.

According to EEB Vice President Attracta Uí Bhroin “What isn’t clear is how this approach of Commissioner Hogan squares with that of Vice President Timmermans at COP 25 in Madrid and the European Green Deal. The latter focus on the use of border adjustments, or ‘tariffs’, to deal with carbon leakage. Rather than smoothing trade with the US, we should be building a wall for Trump: a great carbon tariff wall.

“The EEB wants the European Green Deal, but we also want it to  be meaningful,” insists Uí Bhroin.

Nick Meynen, policy officer for environmental and economic justice also commented: “When Juncker and Trump agreed to boost EU imports of liquified US gas, they ignored the consequences for our climate. The new Commission claims to take the climate emergency seriously but instead of reversing the devastating and exponential rise of imports of fracked gas from the US, we are negotiating with a climate rogue state on how to import more goods. In a recent meeting with Hogan’s cabinet, we were told that the environment is ‘not his portfolio’. In the real world, Hogan’s trade portfolio has a massive impact on the environment.”

“This European Commission came in saying that the goal is to become climate neutral by 2050. For that to happen, we shouldn’t be making any trade deal with the climate wrecking Donald Trump,” maintains Meynen.

The EEB calls on concerned citizens to target their MPs, MEPs and governments with the statement.

Campaigners are using the following hashtags to promote the campaign on social media: #TTIP #TTIPstaydead #BackdoorTTIP #NotOnOurPlate