EU alleged to have given ExxonMobil access to confidential papers

Friday, 27 November 2015

The EU appears to have given the US oil company ExxonMobil access to confidential negotiating strategies considered too sensitive to be released to the European public during its negotiations with the US on the trade agreement TTIP, documents reveal.

Officials also asked one oil refinery association for “concrete input” on the text of an energy chapter for the negotiations, as part of the EU’s bid to write unfettered imports of US crude oil and gas into the trade deal.


The employers’ confederation BusinessEurope was even offered “contact points” with US negotiators in the State Department and Department of Energy, according to the cache of material which was released under access to documents laws.


The US has banned fossil fuel exports for 40 years but the policy was relaxed towards Mexico in August. Previous leaks of TTIP documents have revealed the EU is pressing for a guarantee in the trade deal that the US will allow free export of oil and gas to Europe, alarming environmentalists who fear imports would impact on the EU’s climate change plans.


It would cost $100bn to build the infrastructure necessary to export the US fossil fuels, according to industry estimates, also released in the freedom of information trawl.


Campaigners said the documents and emails obtained by the Guardian showed an extraordinary and shocking relationship between the EU and industry over the fossil fuel push.


“This is an extraordinary glimpse into the full degree of collusion between the European commission and multinational corporations seeking to use TTIP to increase US exports of fossil fuels,” said John Hilary, the director of War on Want. “The commission is allowing the oil majors to write the proposed energy chapter of TTIP in their favour.”


The Green MEP Ska Keller, who stood against Jean-Claude Juncker in last year’s presidential elections, said she was astonished by the degree of complicity between Brussels and fossil fuel companies.


“The documents reveal a shocking closeness between business interest groups and the commission,” she said. “I am now wondering who actually writes the EU’s draft texts. It seems to be big corporations who only have profits on their mind. The commission needs to stop being the executive arm of the business lobby.”


At a meeting in September 2013, EU trade officials gave a briefing on the state of TTIP talks to two trade groups and 11 oil and gas companies – including Shell, BP and ExxonMobil.


“We asked Europia [the European oil refiners’ association] for further support for the raw materials and energy chapter and for further concrete input, whereby we made a reference to the text for the UA [EU-Ukraine free trade agreement], also explaining this was a compromise text and not our preferred outcome,” the officials’ minutes say.


Europia replied that it would try to “provide further suggestions”. The organisation, which has since been renamed Fuels Europe, was unable to locate any officials who attended the meeting, or documents that arose from it, when contacted by the Guardian.


But John Cooper, the group’s director, said that its “two wishes” were for full access to crude oil, and a more developed gas market allowing price equalisation between the EU and US.


“In order to navigate this difficult space, the EU needs to be very well informed and the expertise is substantially in the industry,” he said. “There is an understanding and an alignment over the broad objectives, so it makes a great deal of sense to support the EU institutions.”


Brussels officials deny that Europia was asked to provide wording for the TTIP text, and say they also ask civil society groups for support.


“To enrich our negotiating position, we take input from experts in the real world,” a spokesman said. “We try to understand what are the trade barriers that they face, and what opportunities they could have in new markets.”


Minutes of a meeting with Cefic, a chemicals trade association whose members include BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil, indicate that the costs of enabling US exports of shale gas, liquefied natural gas and crude oil could be punishing.

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