Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

The revelations underscore criticisms that trade agreements like the TTIP constitute a "race to the bottom" for environmental, public health, and labor standards.(Photo: Holger Boening/cc/flickr)

The revelations underscore criticisms that trade agreements like the TTIP constitute a "race to the bottom" for environmental, public health, and labor standards. (Photo: Holger Boening/cc/flickr)

Trade Officials Promised Exxon That TTIP Will Erase Environmental 'Obstacles' Worldwide

EU trade officials soothed the oil giant as it fretted about new regulations popping up in Global South

Lauren McCauley

Newly released documents show that, in back-room talks, European officials assured ExxonMobil that the pending US-EU trade agreement would force the removal of regulatory "obstacles" worldwide, thus opening up even more countries to exploitation by the fossil fuel empire.

Heavily redacted documents pertaining to an October 2013 meeting, obtained by the Guardian and reported on Tuesday, reveal that then-trade commissioner Karel de Gucht met with two officials from ExxonMobil's EU and U.S. divisions to address the benefits of the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

As the Guardian notes, the meeting was held at a time when countries in South America and Africa were "tightening regulations on fossil fuel companies for the first time in a decade, despite ExxonMobil’s ambitions to open up shale gas fracking wells in North Africa, Asia and South America."

A briefing paper summarizing the key points of meeting reportedly stated: "TTIP is perhaps more relevant as setting a precedent vis-a-vis third countries than governing trade and investment bilaterally...We think that this third country element is in the interest of the energy sector, and especially globally active companies like Shell or Exxonmobil. After all, companies like Shell or Exxonmobil face the same trade barriers when doing business in Africa, in Russia or in South America." 

Or, as Guardian reporter Arthur Neslen phrased it, the commission effectively told the oil giant "that once the trade deal was in place, other countries outside it would be progressively forced to adopt the same measures, making it easier for companies such as ExxonMobil to expand into their markets."

The revelations underscore criticisms that trade agreements like the TTIP constitute a "race to the bottom" for environmental, public health, and labor standards. They come a day after Greenpeace activists set up a blockade outside of negotiations in Brussels to call attention to the environmental threats posed by the corporate-friendly deal.

"What the Commission calls barriers to trade are in fact the safeguards that keep toxic pesticides out of our food or dangerous pollutants out of the air we breathe," said Greenpeace TTIP campaigner Susan Jehoram Cohen on Monday. The negotiators, Cohen added, "want to weaken these safeguards to maximize corporate profits, whatever the costs for society and the environment."

Indeed, Tuesday's revelations are not the first to expose the collusion between European trade negotiators and the fossil fuel industry. Other documents released in November showed officials going so far as to ask industry leaders for "concrete input" on the text for the TTIP's energy chapter.

After the latest report, Nick Dearden, director of the UK-based social justice group Global Justice Now expressed resounding dismay at the TTIP text and negotiation process, tweeting: "Can this deal get any worse?"


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Watch: Bernie Sanders Argues 'We Must End the Greed of Big Pharma'

The live address comes as the Senate Budget Committee chair continues to push for including Medicare expansion and drug pricing reforms in the Build Back Better package.

Common Dreams staff ·


Reconciliation Framework 'Not Enough' to Push Through Infrastructure Bill, Progressives Warn

"We need to have a vote ready for the Build Back Better plan, not a framework," insisted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. "We want to have both of these votes together."

Brett Wilkins ·


McDonald's Workers Join 'Striketober' and Walk Out Over Sexual Harassment

One striker participated because "McDonald's still refuses to take responsibility for the countless women and teenagers who face harassment on the job at its stores across the globe."

Jessica Corbett ·


Breaking: FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine for Kids 5 to 11

With just one abstention, the advisory panel voted 17-0 to approve the vaccine for younger children which scientific review has deemed both safe and effective against the deadly virus.

Common Dreams staff ·


Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo