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17 March 2014
Week of debate and protest marks 4th round of TTIP talks
As negotiators from both sides of the Atlantic met last week, so too did civil society groups, whose two-day strategy session provided campaigners with time to exchange ideas and views as the TTIP talks begin to move into more concrete areas.
NGOs joined farming groups and trade unions on Thursday March 13 in a rally outside DG Trade, with organisers estimating 350 people in attendance.
Dairy farmers and food policy activists voiced their concerns that the TTIP deal will undermine small family run farms to suit large agribusiness, lowering prices and food standards here and in the US.
Karen Hansen-Kuhn of the Institute of Trade and Agriculture spoke to the rally concerning her fears for US food exports to the EU.
Later in the day she spoke to Friends of the Earth Europe, detailing her worries:
Mike Dolan (Teamsters, USA) also spoke on the need for trade unions to come out against TTIP and demand full transparency, explaining how in the US, they were fighting not just TTIP, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement also.
From Inside US Trade:
Among the other groups participating in the protest were Belgian labor unions and political parties. Emmanuel Bonami, a member of the Belgian labor union CNE, said his group was participating in the demonstration due to fears that TTIP would enable companies to challenge government measures and undermine food safety.
Vincent Piefort, a member of the Belgian branch of the European Milk Board (EMB), was one of the dairy farmers who threw milk on the DG Trade building. He said the action was symbolic, and a reminder of earlier protests when dairy farmers poured milk over their fields to protest low milk prices that made it impossible for farmers to cover their costs.
Piefort said a combination of imports and domestic policies were to blame for that crisis. He said that he not only fears TTIP would introduce more dairy imports into the country and push down prices, but that it would also threaten food safety more generally because of different standards in the United States.
In the afternoon, Friends of the Earth Europe hosted a conference entitled 'Untangling the Trade Talks' which focused on food safety and the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). There were passionate exchanges between Commission officials and members of civil society organisations present at the event.
On the issue of fair and equitable justice under the ISDS mechanism, Pia Eberhardt of the Corporate Europe Observatory suggested that the reforms of ISDS proposed by the Commission under TTIP do not go far enough, and will do little to address the concerns of many. An extract of her speech can be found here:
On Friday 14, 27 NGOs called for full transparency by the Commission in an open letter to Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, details of which can be found here.
This echod Thursday's call by Green MEPs at the European Parliament for an end to the current TTIP agenda, and full transparency on the negotiating texts.
With President Obama due in Brussels on March 26, we're likely to see more of this sort of action over the weeks ahead. Last week showed positive first steps in activating public awareness and support against TTIP's covert business interests. Until we see efforts to put people before corporations in this deal, civil society will continue to push back against negotiations as they continue. So watch this space!