The demonstrators’ demands were as loud as they were clear: “Stop TTIP,” they shouted. Many carried banners, stating “No sellout” and “Human rights before trade rights.”
Over the weekend, tens of thousands of people across Europe protested the planned free trade agreement with the United States, known as TTIP, last weekend.
In Germany, the largest demonstration in Munich rallied about 15,000 people on Saturday, according to the organization Attac. Protesters took to the streets in Berlin, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe as well.
“I find it very inspiring that trade policy is garnering this type of far-reaching, heated debate,” E.U. Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström wrote in her blog last Friday, but without outright reference to the global “action day” opponents had called for the next day.
The growing distrust of the planned trade treaty is fueled by how complex and piecemeal the negotiations are. Official information on TTIP remains so vague as to accommodate all sorts of apprehensions.
Today, the ninth round of TTIP negotiations begin in the United States.
Not a single chapter of the treaty has been finalized so far, as the U.S. and the E.U. Commission, the executive arm of the European Union entrusted with the talks, disagree over many points.
The European Union is hoping for profits in the millions by gaining access to public tenders.
That’s why no real breakthrough is expected for this week either. Officially, the talks are supposed to be concluded in 2015, but off the record even officials in Brussels are calling the timeline unrealistic, if not impossible.
The E.U. Parliament, the legislature that will eventually have to approve the trade agreement, is likely to pass a resolution on the ongoing negotiations with an overwhelming majority. But the resolution had to be postponed to June because of the 900-plus amendments to the draft – an indicator of how hard a time European parties are having with TTIP as well.
The particularly controversial investor protection and arbitration courts clauses are not part of the current talks in New York. The European Union is still trying to find its own position on these points, which critics claim will give corporations the power to undermine states and human rights.
The treaty, and therefore the current negotiations, consists of three parts, namely market access, regulatory cooperation and trade rules.
Public tenders are on the agenda for this round. So far, E.U. companies had been excluded from public contracts in many U.S. states. The European Union is hoping for profits in the millions by gaining access to those.
The United States, on the other hand, wants to better market their agricultural goods. Both parties also want to discuss energy and natural gas trade.
Katharina Dröge, spokeswoman for trade of the German Green Party, warned of “a horse trade” that would weaken consumers’ rights.
The E.U. Commission had long been criticized for its opacity in the negotiations. As part of a recent attempt to win back public trust, the body is now publishing all initiatives online, such as a the E.U. proposal on regulatory cooperation to be discussed this week.
Video: Anti-TTIP protests in Vienna, Austria on Saturday.
The proposed “regulatory cooperation councils” that are supposed to synchronize market rules across the Atlantic are a red flag for TTIP opponents. Critics fear that stricter standards can be blocked from the onset this way.
The proposal, online since February, also exemplifies the limits of the E.U.’s transparency drive. The text reads like gibberish to anyone who’s not a legal expert. That’s why downloads only reach the three-digit range, according to German newspaper FAZ.
U.S. proposals continue to remain secret.
This article originally appeared in daily newspaper Tagesspiegel. To contact the author: email@example.com.