Tuesday

26th May 2020

Opinion

No summer break for anti-free trade opposition

  • Malmstroem has been battling to keep the TTIP negotiations on track (Photo: European Commission)

“TTIP doesn’t keep me up at night”, EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem recently said of the on-going EU-US trade talks.

Yet, as the summer break approaches, negotiators on giant trade and investment pacts such as the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Transpacific Trade Partnership (TPP) ought to feel more restless.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Despite immense effort, the trade conundrum is nowhere close to being solved. Public opposition to secret free-trade pacts is growing by the day and has spilled over into fierce political infighting on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Brussels, TTIP’s odds of success are looking lower than ever. The negotiators’ continuous refusal to take into account public concerns about protection standards and the secrecy around the negotiations has brought crowds onto the streets.

More than 2 million people have signed a self-organised European Citizens’ Initiative calling for an end to the negotiations. To the European Commission’s surprise, this opposition has spread to the European Parliament debate about its resolution on TTIP - its main input in the negotiations.

While the general pro-TTIP position of the centre-right and centre-left parties was expected to result in a green light for the controversial negotiations, the resolution has been in deadlock for weeks.

Dissenting opinions within parties have led to an embarrassing postponement of the vote, illustrating not only that there is no popular support for TTIP, but that a supporting majority in political circles is also missing.

Last week saw the European Parliament’s resolution on TTIP go through the wringer for a second time in the trade committee. On Thursday, the presidents of the parliament's groups decided the resolution should go back to plenary for debate and vote today and tomorrow.

Around Europe, pessimism about TTIP’s fate has multiplied over the last few weeks. Germany’s powerful economic minister Sigmar Gabriel recently declared that he is “far from certain that there will be an agreement in the end”, but rather “it may well be that in the end it fails”.

Meanwhile, Luxembourg’s foreign minister joked darkly that he is “not prepared to die for TTIP”.

Across the Atlantic, it took significant political manoeuvring for the US executive to be granted so-called fast-track authority to negotiate TTIP and TPP.

President Barack Obama went against his own party line and was accused of using dirty procedural tricks to pull this off. This comes as a serious embarrassment for the US government and free-trade supporters in the US, exposing the growing political turmoil about the harmful impacts of free-trade agreements.

If we take a step back, the picture is very clear.

Popular resistance against harmful trade agreements is reaching unprecedented levels.

The US and European publics have spotted these trade deals for the Trojan horses that they are. Now politicians are having second thoughts about opening the gates to let them inside.

Natacha Cingotti is a trade campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

How coronavirus might hit EU defence spending

Among the casualties of coronavirus - worldwide and in the EU - is the defence sector. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has not made the world a less dangerous place and there is no alternative to having a functioning defence system.

Column

That German court ruling hurts EU rule-of-law fightback

The short-term damage to financial markets may be smaller than feared. The damage to democracy is considerable because it weakened the ECJ - the most effective institution to stop attacks against democracy and rule of law in EU member states.

China's cat-and mouse game blocking web content no model for EU

The angriest citizens can turn to protests or violence, leading governments to increase control and monitoring of platforms, reinforcing the problem. This painful point has to be made to stop the EU repeating China's mistake of top-down internet regulation.

Covid-19 in Europe's prisons - and the response

Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Sweden have taken no steps towards reducing the use of imprisonment and others, like Greece, appear to be waiting for Covid-19 to spread through prisons before acting.

Column

Saving Europe from corona's nasty geopolitics

Four months into the corona crisis and one month into the social and economic shutdown, it seems the big geopolitical loser of the pandemic is likely going to be Europe.

Coronavirus: A test of the West

We are experiencing the first global pandemic unfolding in the 24/7 news cycle and taking its toll, in real time, on our daily lives, our financial security and the global economy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  3. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic co-operation on COVID-19
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic research collaboration on pandemics

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us