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TTIP Controversy continues on Continent

Many European media – German ones especially – continue to report on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) debate. While strong reactions come from Germany, European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström stated in an interview with heute.de that she was aware of the heated debate, but that it is normal that questions arise in the course of negotiations to which citizens demand answers. She attempted to dispel fears, claiming the EU has “no intention to lower any standards” related to environment or consumer protection, adds the German website.

Along the same lines, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis argues in an interview with Der Tagesspiegel that the EU will defend its standards vis-à-vis the US. According to him, the main point of the TTIP is to lower bureaucratic hurdles. He also urges for more transparency in the TTIP talks.

In another interview granted to ZDF, Ms Malmström underlines the EU “could probably do more” on the TTIP issue and that the main task this spring will be to deliberate with the European Parliament and EU member states. On German TV, Andreas Künast also comments on the German citizens’ pushback against the TTIP, who fear an “attack on democracy” and the lowering of standards. The bone of contention lies with “highly specialised” arbitration courts in the TTIP, he says.

In Tageszeitung, Ulrike Herrmann states that the TTIP negotiations with the US “are in ruins” but the protests against free trade agreements might still be too weak to prevent the contract with Canada. The author expects Ms Malmström to confront TTIP critics and act strategically because she “believes in the market”. Silvia Liebich reports for Süddeutsche Zeitung that law expert Siegfried Broß sees ISDS clauses as unconstitutional. According to Mr Broß, private courts constitute a “systematic breach of international law.”

The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause may derail talks for the TTIP, argues as well Cinco Días‘ Bernardo de Miguel. Sources familiar with TTIP negotiations acknowledge that, besides campaigning against the deal from a large number of NGOs, some EU countries and industrial sectors are combating as well, though covertly, the ISDS clause. Austrian media quotes European Commissioner for Agriculture & Rural Development Phil Hogan, underlining that certain “red lines” on the TTIP agreement had to be respected, such as restrictions on genetic engineering or the ban of hormone treatments in animal farming.

The press also reports that Ms Malmström will talk with TTIP opponents in Vienna tomorrow. In an article for Estonia’s Delfi, Paul Nurm, member of the European Economic and Social Committee, explains that during the European election, all candidates glorified the TTIP before even knowing its content. It is therefore time to analyse whether the trade agreement will actually benefit the European and Estonian agricultures, Mr Nurm stresses.

Signing the TTIP with US is one of the topical points on EU agenda, says Latvia’s Diena. The EU political leaders have great hopes for this agreement expecting it to stimulate faster economic growth. The European Commission estimates that this agreement would add 0.49% of GDP growth per year for Latvia, adds the Latvian newspaper. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reads “Obama to push for “fast track” trade powers” © European Union, 2015

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