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Monday, August 11, 2014

Is Germany emerging as the biggest obstacle to a liberal EU-US trade deal?

If you read our press summary, you will have noticed that the debate around the US-EU free trade deal (TTIP) is really picking up in Germany, with even the euro-critical AfD coming out against key elements of the deal ahead of the European elections.

Of all the mainstream newspapers in Europe, S├╝ddeutsche Zeitung is the one that has devoted the most time and effort into covering the on-going negotiations over TTIP, and it has also published a number of comment pieces - both for and against.

In an opinion piece today, the paper's Economics correspondent Alexander Hagel├╝cken argues that the debate around the EU-US free trade agreement (TTIP) has become “schizophrenic” amid mounting public opposition (as highlighted by the cartoon above). However, he argues that:
"European governments can escape the impasse by making it clear that they want to expand free trade via the TTIP principle while at the same time meeting the legitimate concerns of their citizens who do not want increased prosperity at the cost of losing environmental and health standards. GM foods? Only after passing the European approval procedure and with clear labeling. Investor lawsuits against environmental legislation such as Vattenfall’s legal challenge against the nuclear phase-out? Not before secret tribunals, but only in the ordinary courts."
He concludes that:
"Yes, such a path would not lead to unfettered capitalism with a neoliberal flavour but free trade with constraints. In other words, it would be the kind of social market economy which has given the [German] Federal Republic decades of prosperity after World War II, while tensions decreasing rather than increasing tensions between the social classes.” 
German public opinion will be a crucial factor in determining the success or failure of the TTIP negotiations. As with everything else these days, we suspect, on TTIP, as goes Germany, so goes Europe. 


Anonymous said...

Somebody needs to stand upto this agreement and get it severely modified or thrown out.

Having corporations with the ability to sue governments because of the way this trade agreement is coded could mean not only that we as the taxpayer are penalised heavily because our goverment didn't want to trade with a corporation, but it also lessens the power of the nation state.

My MP assured me that the UK would not be a part of this agreement.

Denis Cooper said...

Inserting the adjective "liberal" does nothing to answer the charge that these trade agreements would take power away from democratically elected national governments, and therefore in each case from the people they were supposed to be serving, and instead give it to multinational corporations serving their private investors.

Is that your idea of how a "liberal" democracy should work, that it should make no difference if the people vote for a change of their government and therefore a change of policy, because under such international agreements the new government would not be permitted to change the existing policy?

And this permanent destruction of national democracy should be seen as acceptable because it might secure a rather marginal one-off economic benefit?

Anonymous said...

Only a committee of unelected political failures could believe this is anything other than handing a vast amount of power to large american corporations over the heads of elected national governments.