Germans are not merely skeptical about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the proposed free trade deal between the European Union and United States. They are hostile to it.
That has been evident over and over again in opinion polls and demonstrations against TTIP. On October 10, at least 150,000 people protested in Berlin against the deal which they fear will lower food and trade standards and hand too much power to large corporations.
Such hostility does not provide conducive conditions for bringing the treaty, which has been negotiated for more than two years, to a positive conclusion.
The secrecy surrounding the negotiation papers further adds to the public’s wariness of the deal, and plays into the hands of those spreading conspiracy theories. Following pressure from non-governmental organizations, the European Commission did allow German parliamentarians to view the discussion papers on a secure server. But after numerous documents were leaked, the EU Commission took this privilege away.
The negotiating documents can now only be seen in Germany by certain ministry officials in a reading room at the U.S. Embassy.
Acceptance of TTIP can only grow when the people and their representatives in the Bundestag are well informed.
Norbert Lammert, the president of the German parliament, the Bundestag, has been fighting for weeks for his members to regain access. After meeting with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, in September, Mr. Lammert thought he had a deal. But nothing came of it.
In light of the constantly growing opposition to TTIP among the German population, it is right that Mr. Lammert is now, as a last resort, threatening the breakdown of the negotiations if lawmakers and the government don’t get more access to the documents.
The behavior of the Commission is completely incomprehensible in light of the tense situation in Germany. It fears that if the lawmakers get access to the documents there will be more leaks. That could happen. But it would not be the worst thing to happen.
The worst thing would be for the population to continue opposing TTIP, because then even the biggest proponents of free trade in the Bundestag would be compelled to vote against the agreement.
There is enormous interest in the TTIP negotiations in Germany. It is good news that so many people are interested in a trade agreement. The problem is the complexity of the negotiations. The people are getting upset over things that have long since been off the table, or they’re over-interpreting other passages.
Acceptance of TTIP can therefore only grow when the people and their representatives in the Bundestag are well informed.
The Commission should take Mr. Lammert’s ultimatum seriously and work with the Americans to make sure there is more transparency.
To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org