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Criticism of TTIP 'wrong' and 'misleading,' says US

The chief US diplomat brokering a controversial new trade deal with the EU says a leak of the plans are deceptive. The documents were revealed by German media and Greenpeace to "shine a light" on the secret talks.

In a statement, US Trade Representative Michael Froman said "the interpretations being given to these texts appear to be misleading at best and flat out wrong at worst."

The comments from the international trade adviser to President Barack Obama followed the publication of leaked documents, which purport to reveal the details of closed-door negotiations between US and EU trade officials.

Critics of the "Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership" (TTIP), say it risks undermining democratic institutions and weakening EU safety standards.

But in defense of the proposed trade deal, Froman said: "TTIP will preserve, not undermine, our strong consumer, health, environmental standards, and position the US and the EU to work together to push standards higher around the world."

He said that he wanted a "fact-based discussion about what TTIP seeks and does not seek to achieve."

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European activists suspicious

Some of the leaked documents - shared by German daily "Süddeutsche Zeitung" and public broadcasters "WDR" and "NDR" - described how the US is pressuring the EU to buy more of its agricultural products.

Environment group Greenpeace went further,

publishing online 248 pages of what it said were classified documents

from the talks.

Greenpeace claimed the US was bargaining to weaken EU restrictions on genetically modified organisms and hormone-treated meat, which the EU has denied. The campaign group said the pact would weaken standards and protections, while putting corporate interests first.

"TTIP is about a huge transfer of power from people to big business," Greenpeace said.

Activists have long called for the release of all TTIP texts, while officials on both sides have stressed the need to keep negotiations secret to strike the best deal possible. Those permitted to read TTIP documents, mainly politicians, have to go into a special "reading room" - submitting all communications and writing equipment on entry.

'Storm in a teacup'

Earlier on Monday, the

European Commission, the 28-nation EU's executive arm, took a similar stance to the US trade commissioner.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem said "there seems to be quite a number of misconceptions floating around" about the "supposed leaks" on the ambitious treaty, which the US and European Union have been negotiating behind closed doors since mid-2013.

Malmstroem said that no agreement would lower the EU's

consumer, environment or food safety standards.

Last week, officials from the US and the EU expressed hope of completing negotiations this year, despite US elections in November and a British referendum in June on whether to stay in the EU.

US President Barack Obama, who leaves office in January, has made trade a key part of his remaining agenda.

His spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House was "not concerned" about the leaks and expects no "material impact" on the agreement. He said Obama was seeking a trade deal that would strengthen standards.

mm/rc (AFP, dpa)

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