26 June 2017

EU-Japan leaks: backroom deal reignites trade agreements battle

Environmental and democratic issues prompt new concerns, echoing TTIP/CETA

Simon McKeagney, Editor

The EU-Japan deal, which is due to come to a political conclusion by July 5 or 6 when Prime Minister Abe flies to Brussels, hit a snag on Friday evening when Greenpeace leaked large swathes of confidential negotiation papers.  

The leak has sparked renewed concerns about the direction of EU trade policy, after revealing that both sides have negotiated weaker environmental standards than in previous agreements, such as the now-defunct TPP. The much-reviled investor arbitration mechanism controversially also remains in place.

The EU-Japan deal, coined “JEFTA” by campaigners, will encompass close to a quarter of the world’s economy and have significant implications for every sector and industry, from agriculture to automobiles, to the digital economy and railway procurement.

In a blogpost on Friday night, Greenpeace Netherlands defended their decision to leak saying:

‘The documents released today show that JEFTA will mainly benefit large corporations at the expense of people and the planet. The agreement could make it harder for the EU and Japan to take the environmental measures necessary to reach their Paris Agreement obligations.’

‘Old habits die hard’

Today Klaus Buchner, MEP in the International Trade Committee and shadow rapporteur for the Green/EFA Group said: “It is a pity, but no surprise, that we need to trust in Greenpeace to inform us of the details of EU-Japan rather than rely on the EU Commission. Not only does this leak in itself highlight how the Commission has learned nothing from the TTIP and CETA fight, but there are genuine concerns within the text also.”

“We are very concerned that the Commission once again puts forward a ‘Regulatory Cooperation Committee’ to screen upcoming legislation, and provides such weak environmental and social protections.”

“At the same time Japan wants to include the same provisions on data-flows and privacy as in the TPP. This would be nowhere close to a sufficient guarantee for the EU legal framework on data protection. Japan also seems to be refusing to adopt even minor changes to the Investor to State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Old habits may die hard, but this simply will not fly when it comes to a vote in the European Parliament.”

Increased illegal logging

Greenpeace has cited a number of worrying ecological concerns that were revealed in the leak. In particular, despite Japan being the largest importer of wood and a major market for illegal timber, the text does not put any legal obligation for Japan to adopt due diligence in their supply chains. This is despite the fact that Japan previously agreed to adopt new laws to tackle the trade in illegally harvested wood in the TPP negotiations.

Overfishing, whaling

Significantly weaker language also appears when it comes to overfishing. In the TPP Japan agreed to reduce fisheries subsidies that have resulted in chronic overfishing and damaged over 70 percent of the world’s fish species. No such language has appeared in the EU-Japan deal.  

The EU Commission has also not included any reference to whaling, despite being a major point of global contention. In effect, the Commission has ignored the 2016 European Parliament resolution calling on the Commission, Council and EEAS to urge Japan to comply with its international obligations to abolish the practice. It also makes no reference to a 2014 International Court of Justice ruling that said Japan’s killing of whales for “scientific research” was illegal under the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

TTIP and CETA may have dominated the trade agenda in the last year, leaving the EU-Japan in the shadows. This week the Greenpeace leaks may have finally shed some much needed light.

Download the full leak here.

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