Concerns are on the rise in the European Union over the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, negotiations whose principle aim is to remove a wide range of barriers to bilateral commerce with the United States. Over the last weekend, demonstrations were taking place across Europe on Saturday, with large numbers of events in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom where demonstrations and gatherings occurred in as many as 15 cities and towns. Brussels and Washington launched the TTIP negotiations last year with the political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic declaring that their objective is to stimulate more trade and investment, and, in the process, to produce more economic growth and employment.
However, the whole process has so far proved to be rather controversial. For example, when it comes to one of the stated aims which is the reduction of the costs to business of complying with regulations, critics argue that the actual result of this effort would be lower standards of protection for workers, consumers and the environment. With food safety being of a particular concern among European opponents of the negotiations, EU campaigners warn that European consumers would automatically be exposed to more genetically modified (GM) food, and also to hormone-treated beef and chicken meat that has been washed with chlorine. Another contentious issue has revolved around the dilemma as to whether or not the foreign investors – the EU companies in the U.S. or vice versa – should be able to sue a host government in some circumstances if they are affected by a change in policy. Finally, the way the “secretive” TTIP negotiations are conducted is also contentious, with the campaigners accusing Brussels of not making any effort to make these negotiations more transparent, democratic and accountable.