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Trade Opponents Leak Documents They Say Show Corporate Influence

One of the economic legacies President Obama hopes to leave behind is an expansion of U.S. exports.

To do that, he wants to complete one trade deal with European countries, and another with Pacific Rim nations.

But well into his final year in office, Obama is facing stiff headwinds on trade.

The European deal, called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, made news on Monday...but probably not the way the White House would have preferred.

Greenpeace Netherlands, an environmental group, leaked 248 pages of classified documents involving TTIP, the far-reaching deal involving the U.S. and European Union. The date from before trade negotiators met again last week in New York.

Consumer and environmental groups on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean have expressed concerns that U.S. corporations may be pushing Europeans to lower their various protections. They say the leaked papers support that view.

"We've done this to ignite a debate," Greenpeace trade expert Juergen Knirsch said at a news conference in Berlin. TTIP opponents want negotiations to end.

But the European Commission said the documents merely reflect negotiating positions in talks that have been going on for three years.

The EU's top negotiator, Ignacio Garcia-Bercero, said at a press conference that "some points that Greenpeace is making in these documents are flatly wrong."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters the leaks will not have a "material impact" on the talks. "Our focus is on trying to complete these negotiations by the end of the year," he said.

Typically, trade negotiators work behind closed doors as they sort out positions. Even though details have not been officially released, it's known that TTIP would deal with many contentious issues such as genetically modified foods, poultry safety, auto exports and more.

In April, a survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation showed support for TTIP was declining in both Germany and the United States.

Obama's other deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has been negotiated, but not yet approved by Congress and the approval process appears stalled for now. No vote is scheduled for the deal, and many congressional observers predict any action will have to wait until after the November election. Trade has become a hot-button issue with many voters this election cycle.

To drum up support for TPP, Obama released an essay Monday afternoon in The Washington Post, saying the partnership would strength the U.S. economy:

"TPP brings together 12 countries representing nearly 40 percent of the global economy to make sure that private firms have a fair shot at competing against state-owned enterprises. My administration is working closely with leaders in Congress to secure bipartisan approval for our trade agreement."

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Marilyn Geewax is a contributor to NPR.
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