Life In Berlin: TTIP - A Matter Of Trust?

18 minutes ago

 

2015 was a challenging year for the EU and German leadership. One challenge was the efforts of the U.S. and the EU to establish the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership: TTIP.

After massive resistance, especially in Berlin, where over 250,000 people took to the street in protest of the controversial trade agreement, TTIP appears to have come to a halt.

Protesters held performances describing their views against industrial agriculture during the TTIP protest at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany.
Credit Carsten Koall / Stringer / Getty Images

Green Party representative and economist Gerhard Schick addresses the current state of TTIP: "The protests, both in the street and the over 3 million signatures, have really changed the political landscape of Germany. Now, there is growing awareness that it is a problem to sign a free trade agreement that includes a lot more than free trade.”

The Trade agreement was problematic for many, because of food standards such as introducing genetically-engineered food onto EU markets, conditions regarding EU cultural funding, and the ability for larger international firms to sue governments in private arbitrage courts – a privilege not available to smaller businesses based in their original country.

As Gerhard Schick says, “So this is an extra way to enforce your interests that is not available for small businesses. People feel – and correctly so – that that changes the balance of power between big businesses and citizens.” 

The privileging of large businesses over smaller and medium-sized enterprises is not ideal – especially for a country like Germany where SMEs are a very important part of the economy. 

Many farmers drove their tractors to protest against the free trade agreement between the European Union and the United States in Berlin, Germany.
Credit Carsten Koall / Stringer / Getty Images

James Bindnagel, Henry Kissinger Professor of Security at Bonn University, says that the EU needs a free trade agreement like TTIP, but the way it was negotiated meant that the voices of small and medium-sized enterprises were left out of the negotiations.

“How do you bring those small and medium-sized companies into the debate? You sit down, and talk with those people. It should have been done for the last two years. It was not, and now we have to live with where we are.”

Aside from the chlorine chickens, it seems that much of the anger about TTIP comes from the way many voices are left out of the agreement and a lack of transparency.

Green Party representative Gerhard Schick says, “The whole negotiation process is highly nontransparent. We know that international companies have put forward their ideas and behind closed doors. Why are they negotiating behind closed doors?"

It is interesting to think that TTIP has changed the political landscape of Germany, and as Professor James Bindnagel states, “The world has changed. The world is flat. You have to communicate all the time, and bring people along with you.”

It seems that 2016 will not see the rise of TTIP, as long as so much resistance remains. Perhaps what we will see is greater transparency in the future.