On Saturday 11 October, the European Day of Action, people in 400 European cities protested against the much-discussed free trade agreement between Europe and the US, TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). Meanwhile, over 500,000 European citizens have thus far signed petitions against the TTIP.
Dozens of people also gathered on Amsterdam’s Stock Market Square Environmental organisations, trade unions, farmers movements, and other civil society organisations, including SOMO, organised a demonstration that featured a Trojan Horse to symbolise the many adverse effects of TTIP.
There has been much criticism of the free trade agreement. The predicted economic growth and the notion that it will create millions of jobs may seem wonderful, but are, according to SOMO’s Roos van Os, delusory hopes. Besides, there are too many opposing interests for everyone to feel the positive effects: “This treaty is basically good for the economic interests of large corporations and the elite, but comes at the expense of the environment, economic justice and democratic control. An additional 130,000 jobs are supposed to be created throughout Europe, which is ultimately a quite negligible. But for this pittance we are being asked to take enormous risks. For instance, European companies can not produce like their counterparts do in the US, unless they do so in an unsustainable manner.”
“We are not against trade, but we are for regulated trade. The negotiations were not supposed to be about less regulations, but about better regulations, the kind of regulations that would require companies to operate in a socially responsible manner and ensure that the environmental costs end up as part of the total price,” according to Van Os.
There has also been much criticism about the fact that the TTIP negotiations have for the most part taken place in secret. Noteworthy transparency has been lacking, which impedes the participation of the public and civil society organisations. Just prior to the European Day of Action, the European Commission finally made the negotiating mandate public. This proves that applying pressure and insisting on more transparency remain essential tools.