EU-US trade talks: the trojan horse treaty trips up as opposition grows

Two years ago, then EU trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht launched the negotiations of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), lauding the “untapped” potential of a transatlantic deal for growth and jobs.


Enthusiasm for a quick agreement prevailed over the concerns raised by civil society groups that TTIP handed powerful corporate groups a vehicle to attack regulations standing in the way of their profits.

However, leaked documents – often echoing dangerous demands from corporate lobbyists – soon contradicted the EU’s claims that TTIP wouldn’t compromise protections relating to food safety, chemicals, or energy.

Mounting evidence of the dangers of TTIP’s proposed system of corporate courts – the so-called investor-state dispute settlement mechanism – made its inclusion indefensible, and opened up a debate on possible reform of the mechanism.

Meanwhile, the European Commission’s efforts to improve transparency were token at best, as they excluded the most important documents – the consolidated negotiation texts.

Public opposition to TTIP has been steadily growing all across Europe, and this Trojan horse of a trade deal has tripped up.

A self-organised European Citizen Initiative calling for the suspension of the EU-US trade talks and the non-ratification of the concluded EU-Canada trade deal has already gathered more than two million signatures.

Discontent was partly fuelled by the European Commission’s total disregard for the results of its own public consultation on the controversial investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.

Almost all of the 150,000 respondents to the consultation clearly objected to the proposed VIP rights for investors – opposition the Commission has only paid lip service to.

At the local level, thousands of municipalities and authorities have declared themselves TTIP-free, showing their rejection of a process they are excluded from, but that will drastically reduce their ability to regulate in the public interest.

Each declaration is surely a thorn in the European Commission’s side at a time when the negotiations are faltering.

Perhaps the most telling illustration of the dire state of these trade talks is last week’s abandoned European Parliament debate and vote on its own TTIP resolution – a key opportunity for MEPs to give an opinion on the process.

Fierce party infighting resulted in a delay of the vote instead of the green light to the controversial negotiations that the European Commission had hoped for.

This is another sign that TTIP is too controversial to command popular support in Europe.

The Trojan horse is stuck in the stables and the outlook is pretty grim.

It is high time for European trade officials to take stock and rein in these dangerous negotiations.

Public and political dissent has grown so strong that the horse will soon collapse on its own.