TTIP is like a red rag to a bull in Ger­many

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Say four sim­ple let­ters, TTIP, to many Euro­peans and you’re likely to be met with a blank stare.

But in Ger­many, where re­sis­tance to the pro­posed U.S.-EU free trade pact or Transat­lantic Trade and In­vest­ment Part­ner­ship is fiercest, the re­sponse is likely to be a vol­ley of an­gry words.

In fact, in the whole of Europe, per­haps only in Aus­tria and Lux­em­bourg is the in­ter­est and op­po­si­tion likely to be of a sim­i­lar mag­ni­tude, as a new round of talks — the ninth since last year — kicks off in New York on Mon­day.

Ac­cord­ing to a YouGov poll pub­lished at the end of March, 43 per­cent of Ger­mans be­lieve that the pact, which has the gov­ern­ment’s sup­port, would be “bad” for their coun­try, com­pared with 30 per­cent who see it as “good.”

Out of the seven coun­tries polled, no other showed a sim­i­lar level of skep­ti­cism.

The big­gest bones of con­tention are health and safety stan­dards, no­tably in the area of food, but also a clause which would al­low cor­po­ra­tions to sue gov­ern­ments in tri­bunals that are above na­tional law.

In many Euro­pean coun­tries, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs) and unions have joined in the anti-TTIP cam­paign. But in Ger­many, the scale of the op­po­si­tion is huge.

Nearly 600 demon­stra­tions are planned world­wide on Satur­day in protest against free trade agree­ments, with more than 200 be­ing held in Ger­many alone.

And out of 1.7 mil­lion signatures col­lected Europe-wide by the Euro­pean col­lec­tive “Stop TTIP,” around one mil­lion came from Ger­many — nearly 10 times as many as in France and 50 times as many as in Italy.

Re­cent rev­e­la­tions of spy­ing and sur­veil­lance by U.S. in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, in­clud­ing the tap­ping of Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s mo­bile phone, have fu­eled anti-U.S. sen­ti­ment, she said.

No Other Wor­ries

The po­lit­i­cal left — in­clud­ing many mem­bers of the So­cial Demo­crat SPD party — is par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal of the United States.

And since the SPD is part of the rul­ing coali­tion with Merkel’s con­ser­va­tive CDU-CSU par­ties, the SPD lead­er­ship finds it­self in the schiz­o­phrenic po­si­tion of de­fend­ing a pact which many of its party mem­bers re­ject.

And “be­cause it has be­come a ma­jor de­bate every­body feels they have to take a stance,” in­clud­ing the Church, but also pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tions which wouldn’t nor­mally get in­volved in is­sues of this na­ture, he said.

Since Ger­many is one of the world’s big­gest ex­porters, it was taken for granted by many that the coun­try would ben­e­fit from the pact. And that made TTIP’s sup­port­ers, par­tic­u­larly busi­ness lead­ers, com­pla­cent, ob­servers said.

Last month, the Ger­man in­dus­try fed­er­a­tion BDI was forced to slash its es­ti­mate of the eco­nomic benefits for Europe of TTIP by a fac­tor of 10.

The BDI had said on­line that the pact would re­sult in an eco­nomic boost of about 100 bil­lion eu­ros (US$106 bil­lion) a year for the EU — roughly the eco­nomic ben­e­fit other ex­perts fore­cast over a decade.

Only af­ter re­peated ques­tion­ing by Food­watch, a non-gov­ern­ment group, did the BDI dras­ti­cally re­vise down the es­ti­mates. Most ob­servers agree that the strength of the de­bate in Ger­many is due to the fact that the Ger­man econ­omy is faring so well at the mo­ment.

Jobs are be­ing cre­ated, rev­enues are ris­ing, and so Ger­mans have more time to get in­volved in de­bates which many of their neigh­bors have lit­tle time for, said Bo­erzel.

The French, for ex­am­ple, “have a very dif­fer­ent prob­lems at the mo­ment,” she said.

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