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26 March 2014
How low can you go? Greens rally outside the European Parliament against TTIP's "race to the bottom"
President Obama is in Brussels today for the first US-EU summit in over two years. Proponents of the secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are hoping the visit will inject some life into the on-going negotiations, which have made little progress in bridging the gulf of regulatory differences separating the two regions.
The European Green Party, along with the Green Group in the European Parliament, the Federation of Young European Greens, and two national Green parties, Ecolo and Groen, rallied outside the European Parliament to highlight the growing concerns that TTIP will water down hard-won social, environmental and health standards among many.
Leading Green candidate Ska Keller said "We're here to welcome President Obama to Brussels, and to tell him loud and clear that we will not allow our standards to be lowered by TTIP!”
Lowering the bar on hard-fought standards
TTIP, which will cover an area that represents half of all global trade, is currently being negotiated behind closed doors between the European Commission's DG Trade and USTR, with neither members of the public nor their representatives having access to position papers from the opposite side. Recent reports indicate however, that large corporate interests have been covertly influencing the talks through private meetings before and during the negotiations. This privileged access and lack of transparency has stoked fears that TTIP will become a 'race to the bottom' for regulatory standards as companies attempt to shape the nature of the deal.
"We don't want any deal that undermines our standards for the environment, for our food, our health, for our consumers or our workers. It is clear that "regulatory cooperation" will result in the watering down of standards for the sake private interests. The US and EU must put the public good before the wishes of big companies. We will do everything in our power to stop this agreement in its current form. It will not be passed by the European Parliament, and will end up just like ACTA!"
The European Greens rejected the current TTIP agenda at their Electoral Convention last month, citing real risks and untrustworthy promises that "threaten democracy, the public good and the rights of European citizens."
Obama's visit is likely to reinvigorate the TTIP debate in Europe in the run up to the European elections as EU countries grow increasingly skeptical as to the merits of the deal. The inclusion of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) that would allow corporations to sue countries for the loss of future profits if they introduce more stringent social or environmental laws, is worrisome for many European countries, with France and Germany both expressing their opposition in recent weeks.
A large crowd of Green supporters, as well as MEPs Ulrike Lunacek, Rebecca Harms, Martin Häusling, Sven Giegold, Philippe Lamberts and Bart Staes joined Ska Keller outside the European Parliament and spoke to media and members of the public. Three large-headed figures in suits, representing Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, President Barroso and President Obama tested the skills of supporters with their limbo dance-poll which they lowered on such standards as consumer protection, online privacy and food standards. Who said protesting on serious matters couldn't also be fun?