Leaked Trade Deal Document Shows EU Pressuring U.S. to Lift Crude Oil Export Ban

Oil tanker

A secret document regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations leaked this week shows that oil companies have just as much influence over the governments of the European Union as they do over the government of the U.S. 

In the two-page document, the EU makes several arguments about why the TTIP should require the lifting of the U.S. ban on exporting crude oil, including pushing to add a “strong and comprehensive” chapter that would “combine our support for procompetitive regulation while also lifting bilateral restrictions on gas and crude oil, will show our common resolve to increase security and stability through open markets.”

In a revealing statement to the Washington Post, U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for Europe Peter Chase cut to the chase about what was really happening in these negotiations and who was calling the shots.

“Because U.S. and European companies, including energy companies, have invested heavily on both sides of the Atlantic, U.S. and EU negotiators are essentially representing the same company interests,” Chase said.

When both sides of a negotiation want the same thing, it is easy to see what the outcome will be.

The main two arguments of the new document are the same ones we always hear from Big Oil: promotion of competition via free markets and generic national security platitudes. 

This new effort to lift the export ban rings of hypocrisy since just a few years ago the whole justification for “drill baby drill” in the U.S. was the idea of “energy independence.”  If we drilled here, we were told, we wouldn’t have to import oil from the Middle East. 

In 2012, an article in Bloomberg was still making this case:

The transformation, which could see the country become the world’s top energy producer by 2020, has implications for the economy and national security — boosting household incomes, jobs and government revenue; cutting the trade deficit; enhancing manufacturers’ competitiveness; and allowing greater flexibility in dealing with unrest in the Middle East.

And a USA Today article in 2012 notes the American Petroleum Institute was making the case for approval of the KXL pipeline saying that it would allow the U.S. to stop relying on imports from the Persian Gulf, quoting the API’s Rayola Dougher explaining what will happen if KXL wasn’t approved:   

The U.S. will still depend on oil imports from the Persian Gulf, half of which Keystone XL could have replaced.”

Now, in favor of higher profits for global oil corporations, and with the standard complete disregard for the environment or the climate, that argument has been conveniently dropped from the talking points. Instead we are told the economy will be better and we will be safer if we send our oil overseas.

This leaked document is echoing the same arguments being made on this side of the Atlantic. Just last week, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Obama appointee and major Obama supporter from his days in Chicago, revealed what the White House was thinking on lifting the export ban while speaking at the Aspen Institute:

“I think it's a mistake to think there isn't serious conversation going on within the administration about what we should do and figure out the right policy.”

At the same time billionaire Pritzker was appointed by Obama, he also appointed another long-time friend, Michael Froman, to be the U.S. Trade Representative, making Froman the top negotiator on trade deals like the TTIP.  

Froman and Obama know each other from their days together at Harvard Law School. Froman’s time in the private sector was spent working at Citigroup, who gave him over $4 million in bonuses when he agreed to take the job as trade representative.  

The document leaked on Tuesday says that it’s actually a followup to a similar document from a year ago and specifically mentions that it has been given to Froman.

The enclosed paper on Energy and Raw materials is a slightly modified version of the non-paper already shared with MS in the summer of 2013. The non-paper was handed over by Commissioner De Gucht to USTR Froman in early May.

With two close confidants in positions of power to influence the outcome of TIPP and the end of the export ban, it should come as no surprise that Obama has signalled his support for moving in this direction. In his remarks this May at a Rose Garden appearance with German Chancellor Merkel he emphasized this approach:

This morning, our work touched on the range of issues where the United States and Germany are vital partners. We agreed to continue the close security cooperation — including law enforcement, cyber, and intelligence — that keeps our citizens safe. We reaffirmed our strong commitment to completing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — T-TIP — which is critical to supporting jobs and boosting exports in both the United States and in Europe.

The Washington Post reported that “industry watchers” are speculating that EU power Germany was most likely the driving force behind the document due to the country relying much more on oil than other countries like France.

However, in a piece published this week at Carnegie Europe, the consensus among the seven experts is that despite the ambitions of the corporations who stand to benefit from TTIP, it is unlikely to move forward soon. And to add to the strain in the U.S.-German relations brought on by the NSA spying revelations, this week it was revealed that a new U.S. spying scandal in Germany has further eroded trust in the U.S. 

However, the corporations are unlikely to give up on this lucrative opportunity any time soon as Shaun Donovan, world trade editor at the Financial Times, responded to Carnegie Europe when asked if TIPP is dead:

“The answer, for now, is simple: no. There is a lot of negotiating still happening, and momentum is still there. Officials will be back in Brussels for another formal round of talks in mid-July, and they will meet en masse at least two more times before the end of the year. And then there are all the informal, often more focused talks that happen along the way.”

Until then, the best we can hope for are some more leaked documents while Obama and his Citigroup veteran negotiate in secret.