RIP TTIP? ‘Leaks opening the door on global trade talks’
More information is needed for an open discussion on the most important issues of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which has only been discussed behind closed doors, said Petter Slaatrem Titland, activist and chair at Attac, Norway.
A leaked exchange of testy e-mails between US and EU officials shows signs of growing disagreements, with the two sides locked in secretive negotiations over a free trade deal known as TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).
The EU Commission sent a letter to the ambassadors of all member states in Brussels. In it, the US is called to focus more upon Europe's interests if it wants to complete the talks under the Obama administration.
RT: Will the TTIP deal be successfully reached by the end of Obama's presidency?
Petter Slaatrem Titland: Earlier, you might have thought so, but as the result of the latest leaks and the result of the increasing debates - which are increasing every day in the whole of Europe - it is highly doubtful if there is ever going to be a trade agreement in any of the presidencies we have ahead of us.
RT: The discussions on agriculture in particular seem to be a major stumbling block. Will the EU and US be able to overcome it?
PST: The main issue here is really what the EU dares to bring back to its citizens. While this deal was in the back room, they were able to have negotiations in silence. But as long as the people in Europe are better informed the EU is also pressured to have a better trade agreement that does not [infringe] on important rights in many ways, so we see that with every leak the TTIP is further away. And I think it says a lot about the trade agreement itself.
RT: Why has there been so much secrecy surrounding the talks?
PST: The reality about the TTIP does not really bear scrutiny. We have been pushing for information about this for a long time and we have to get help from leaks and this is not only in the TTIP agreement, but also the TISA agreement that is kind of the brother of the TTIP. We have to have help from WikiLeaks in order to have a proper democratic debate and I think that is really the most important issue when discussing the TTIP agreement. The officials can have disagreements. But EU and US citizens have even bigger disagreements with their own politicians.
RT: The deal is expected to create jobs and bring prices of products down. So why are we still seeing these mass protest rallies on European streets?
PST: At the beginning, the European Commission was very vocal arguing on the economic benefits of these agreements. But when we look into these studies they are at best very doubtful. They are based on assumptions that do not fit with reality. The economic argument has been toned down by the EU for the last year or more, and they are struggling to find new arguments. They are trying to have some kind of geopolitical arguments now. But the people in the US and in the EU do not really see the benefits with this deal.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.